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buster's avatar

How long would you leave a loved one on life support?

Asked by buster (10274points) August 21st, 2009

A relative goes into cardiac arrest and is resuscitated at the hospital. The relative is on a respirator, has limited brain function, and is in a coma. The relatives wish is not to be on life support or a vegetable. How long do you wait for a change or miracle? When do you know when its time to give up? It has been three days since the hospitalization. my uncle

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23 Answers

The_Compassionate_Heretic's avatar

Until all hope of recovery is gone.

NowWhat's avatar

As long as there is life in them, let them live. When people are in a coma and come out, they don’t remember a thing. Kind of like anesthesia. How would you like to go under the knife and just die?

augustlan's avatar

I would get as much information as I could from the doctors regarding the likelihood of possible outcomes, and the time frame for each. Based on that information I would make a decision to “wait and see” for a reasonable time for the most likely (positive) outcome. If it didn’t come, then I would follow my relatives wishes soon after.

NowWhat's avatar

I know that people do die under the knife, but when you choose not to let someone wake up out of ‘mercy,’ I would feel like I’m just doing it for my own convenience rather than what’s best for them.

filmfann's avatar

My mom went into a coma, and we had her on life support for three weeks. She had brain activity, but her body was ruined, and could not sustain her. She had already given us a DNR, and made it very clear that she didn’t want to be kept alive by machine.
Taking her off was the hardest time of my life.

If the relative has no or nearly no brain activity, and she made her choice clear, and it has been several days, do what she wanted.
You are in my prayers.

casheroo's avatar

Fuck, this question made me cry

My grandmother will be on a ventilator just over a week. They are taking it off this Monday, because her wishes were very clear that she does not want these sorts of measures. She made it known that she wants to be with my grandfather in heaven.

For me, this decision for her was harder than I thought it would be. She was not sick. She was getting better and not needing help, when she fell…and the doctors thought she was exaggerating her pain. They then discovered weeks later she has a broken back, and shoulder, and then pneumonia. On top of that she contracted MRSA at the hospital, so they put her in a coma and on a ventilator…and now she won’t be coming off of it alive because she cannot breathe for herself. Which I personally think is because of all the pain killers she is on. I have never been informed of anything about her brain activity. I’ll have to ask. It’s just been hard to even ask questions without it hurting.

Anyways. I always felt it would be so easy to respect peoples wishes. I’m a proponent for euthanasia in the very sick, but I never had the subject touch me personally. It’s not as easy as I thought it’d be. I thought it’d be simple as in “They are in pain, let them go” but now I have to let go of someone I love and it fucking sucks. And it doesn’t seem fair, but I know it’s what she wants and I wouldn’t want to be having some machine breathing for me or some stranger wiping my ass when I go to the bathroom.

augustlan's avatar

Oh, cash… I’m sorry.

Buster, I thought this was hypothetical… if not, please accept my condolences as well.

filmfann's avatar

@casheroo I am so sorry. I wish life didn’t hand us these decisions.
I know it’s trite to say, but I really do feel your pain.

The_Compassionate_Heretic's avatar

Best wishes for your family.

NowWhat's avatar

I hope I’m not sounding insensitive, but I don’t think I could ever take someone off of a machine. Just couldn’t – I’m sorry about this decision you have to make.

Judi's avatar

This question is why advance directives are so important. I never want to put my children or husband in a position of having to make this choice. I have my wishes spled out in writing, although, recent events with my mother on law have caused me to question weather my advance directive is specific enough.

casheroo's avatar

@filmfann @augustlan Thank you two so much. It means a lot.

@buster I’m so sorry you have to make the decision. Did he have anything written or told anyone about his wishes? I would speak to the doctors and find out as much as you can about his condition, and go from there (((Hugs)))

gailcalled's avatar

Like Judi said so well, it is vital to have an advanced directive. My mother has a DNR document signed by her physician. And I am going to redo mine once the weather gets nasty and I have more time to think. My mother’s written instructions are a gift for her and her family, as mine will be for my daughter and sister.

Buster, my deepest sympathies. If your uncle is truly brain-dead, then keeping him on a machine is an act of cruelty, particularly since he made his wishes clear. A longer waiting period may be necessary for the rest of the family to make peace with the inevitable. It’s brutal under any circumstance.

aprilsimnel's avatar

Oh, @buster, he’s so young! I’m sorry. He’s out of a coma with little brain activity? A couple days more, maybe, depending on what the doctors say, but not much longer, is what I’d do. I’m so sorry you have to go through this. My condolences to you and your family.

@casheroo – Please accept my condolences to you and yours as well.

rooeytoo's avatar

His age makes it more difficult for sure. I don’t think I would want to live like that so I would probably be in favor of pulling the plug but 3 days doesn’t seem like a very long time.

My mother was 71 when she had a debilitating stroke. Prior to this she had often said she did not want heroic measures if anything were to happen to her. She must have had some premonition of what her future held. Anyhow I was very well aware of her wishes and let it be known to the doctor and ICU staff. When her heart stopped nothing was done and she died.

I often think that 40 or 50 years ago, a family would not be faced with this decision because these sophisticated life support systems did not exist. People either lived or died according to destiny or fate or whatever you believe in. Made it all a bit simpler.

Sorry I don’t have a better response for you.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

In an objective sense, keeping people in comas on life support for years costs our broken healthcare system money – I know that sounds awful…from a personal sense, if this was my partner or child, I don’t know if I’d be able to

Darwin's avatar

Because he is so young that does make it especially difficult. However, consider whether he would want to live with “reduced brain function.” Would what made him so memorable as the always friendly face at The End still be there? Would he still have his music?

Generally, the doctors will be able to give family members some idea of the likelihood of a decent recovery or the lack of that possibility. I would suggest your family talk to the doctors and tell them what your uncle said about being on life support.

Such a decision is never easy, but see if the doctors can give you some guidelines. In my experience, my friends who have had to make this decision have waited anywhere from a week to four weeks.

I am sorry this has happened. Your uncle sounds like a special person.

dpworkin's avatar

Man. I hope my kids, or whoever, observes my Living Will, Medical Proxy, etc. instructions the way they were written.

Jack_Haas's avatar

Until science can bring him/her back.

Sakimichi's avatar

For as long as i can afford hospital pay D:

Quagmire's avatar

@buster, @casheroo, I am truly sorry to hear this.

To answer the question, I would first hear what the doctor had to say about what he/she would do. I wouldn’t automatically DO it, but I’d want the clinical feedback.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

As long as they have a chance of full recovery. Anything beyond that is selfishness on my part, as it is more kind to let them go. Quality of life is paramout, and if a respirator, tracheostomy and colostomy bags are required for the rest of their life, quality of life is minimal and life is no longer worth living.

EgaoNoGenki's avatar

I’d prefer to be in a coma for however long it takes for medical science to find a way to revive me!

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