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Life Support? If you had to make this awful decision, which would you choose?
By ChristinePremium member
On Mon May 28, 2012 08:58 PM
Edited by Christine (207347) on 2012-05-28 21:00:29 ARRGH... can't fix the typo in the poll.... sorry!
Edited by Christine (207347) on 2012-05-28 21:03:00 typo


I know this is a grizzly topic, but I wonder about this every day. I've never heard a single healthy person I know say they would choose to keep their body alive if it meant they could never speak again and had to be totally dependent on others to empty their tubes and bags. Yet, everyday I meet people who act like the last of the holy martyrs because they are caring for a loved one who is on life support. It makes me realize how important it is to have this conversation with my husband. Personally, I could never suck the life out of the people I love, nor would I ask any of the people I love to endure this indignity because I wasn't ready to let them go. What are your thoughts?

Keep On Dancing*

27 Replies to Life Support? If you had to make this awful decision, which would you choose?

re: Life Support? If you had to make this awful decision, which would you choose?
By DefyingGravityPremium member
On Mon May 28, 2012 09:25 PM
As an ER nurse, I see this dilemma day in and day out.

For me personally, I'd only want to be on life support (ventilator, pressor medications, central line, etc) if there was at least a 50/50 chance I'd recover with a significant quality of life. If I was in a major trauma, like a car accident with brain injury, I'd like to be placed on life support long enough for my family and friends to say goodbye and have my organs still be viable for donation.

When I'm older, I'll get DNR/DNI tattooed in big red letters across my chest. I will NOT be one of those 80 year olds who are intubated or trached in a nursing home taking 50 medications a day.
re: Life Support? If you had to make this awful decision, which would you choose?
By Odessamember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member
On Mon May 28, 2012 09:30 PM
Same here. I've also talked to my Dad about this and we're organising medical and financial power of attorney so my sister and I (she's an accountant, I'll eventually be a nurse), can make these decisions for him if we need to.

It's not fun to talk about, but it gives me peace of mind knowing that if Dad has some kind of awful stroke, we've got his affairs in order.

Mark knows my wishes and at some stage he and I should draw up powers of attorney for one another as well.

Erin.
::righteous babe::
re: Life Support? If you had to make this awful decision, which would you choose?
By Kekoamember has saluted, click to view salute photos
On Mon May 28, 2012 09:36 PM
I absolutely would not want to be kept alive artificially. Technology is pretty advanced. If there were a shot I could come out of it, I'd want that shot. However, if I'm brain dead? Nope, harvest all the organs you can and let me go.
re: Life Support? If you had to make this awful decision, which would you choose?
By Cheesemoo
On Mon May 28, 2012 10:19 PM
I picked the "let my mother decide" option, but I don't specifically mean my mom, just generally the close family and friends that would be there in that situation.
I would really trust them to be able to evaluate whether there was any chance of recovery, and to also look at the strain it was putting on them to keep me in this state. If there was no way I would ever live without life support, then I would really just want them to donate the organs they could, and let me go.
re: Life Support? If you had to make this awful decision, which would you choose?
By imadanseurPremium member
On Mon May 28, 2012 10:25 PM
No no and no. I do not want to be kept alive if I can't enjoy dancing, listening to music, holding the hand of my husband, love my dog's kisses etc. I don't want my husband or son eventually taking care of me to the point where I have no chance of recovering and I'm a burden. No thank you.

Being that my dad is terminal right now he's kind of gotten to make this decision, and he has been very dependent on us over the last 8 months, but he can still talk, get around, eat etc. He's never wanted to be a burden and I've seen others around him that are much worse off and have no family, or family that are almost praying their loved one dies because the stress is driving them crazy.
re: Life Support? If you had to make this awful decision, which would you choose?
By Chaconnemember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member
On Mon May 28, 2012 10:45 PM
When I faced a serious cancer operation about 19 years ago (but one that had little mortality risk), my wife and I both did "living wills" which essentially said "don't do extraordinary stuff to prolong life if there is little or no hope."

I've actually had to make some decisions along that line in the past week as my 92 year old mom had a stroke. She is in Florida and we had just seen her three weeks earlier. While she is past the crisis point and is currently at a stroke rehab center, I had to make some decisions (as the one holding the power of attorney, even though she is currently married) to the degree of treatment she should have. One choice I had to make was whether or not to give her some risky medication to try to clear the blockage. I assented to that. The other was whether or not to insert a stent into her brain (which turned out not to be needed) which I said, "no, not at her age." The Dr. in FL basically said he would have made the same decision had it been his aged grandmother.

Jon
re: Life Support? If you had to make this awful decision, which would you choose?
By ChristinePremium member
On Mon May 28, 2012 10:47 PM
The black and white dilemmas seem easier than the grey areas. Completely brain dead? Of course not. Completely unable to move or communicate with no hope of recovery but still completely cognizant? I used to think this too was a no brainer, but it seems there are many who feel "where there's life, there's hope" and believe they should never give up hope, even if it means zero quality of life.

I'm not sure it is fair for anyone to put this kind of burden on their family in hope of some kind of miracle. I also know families who bully their relatives into agreeing to a ventilator and food tube with the full knowledge the only hope they have in communicating with others is to possibly be able to blink yes or no. Even this isn't always a majority of the time. More like 20% if the patient isn't in a three day sleep cycle. It is just so tragic seeing people in this state especially when all the false hope wears off. Now what?

I'm starting to think I might even refuse certain therapies with serious side effects which could changed my quality of life.

I have a great deal of thinking to do about this still.

Thanks for all the input so far.

Keep On Dancing*
re: Life Support? If you had to make this awful decision, which would you choose?
By imadanseurPremium member
On Mon May 28, 2012 11:01 PM
I wouldn't have wanted to live like Christopher Reeves. I realize he was grateful for that time and his family did what he wanted, but normal people don't have that kind of money nor do they have the ability to pay for private nurses and extra help. I hope my husband would NEVER ever have me live like that. I wouldn't enjoy life.
re: Life Support? If you had to make this awful decision, which would you choose?
By toroandbruinmember has saluted, click to view salute photos
On Tue May 29, 2012 08:09 AM
I agree that it's the grey areas that make it harder to come up with a decision. Completely a vegetable? No question -- that's the end! However, much as I love to dance and move I also have a brain; so as long as that is intact I believe I'll have the will to live. Especially with computers these days, there's so much you can do and produce even if you have to hit letters on the keyboard with a stick held in your teeth! Christopher Reeves and Stephen Hawking are examples of productive lives regardless of wheelchair.

However, as already mentioned, money is a factor. And this is where the decision becomes especially grey. Although I would enjoy mental endeavors I'm not sure the quality of the results would justify the expense it would take to make this possible.

And if my mind was affected so that I was aware but not competent, even if I could still move around, there's no question, pull the plug!
re: Life Support? If you had to make this awful decision, which would you choose?
By Louisemember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member
On Tue May 29, 2012 08:45 AM
I'm fairly sure Tim knows I'd want to be switched off. I'll talk to him about it when I get home.

To me it comes down to quality vs quantity of life, and I would not see any benefit in continuing to live for another x amount of years as a vegetable. Quality of life is more important to me. I'm even pretty sure I wouldn't want to live like Stephen Hawking - I know he can communicate but it's painstaking, and I'm not as much use to the world. I don't want to be trapped. I don't want to be a drain on resources - money spent keeping me alive against my will could save the life of someone who's actually going to get better. I also can't imagine how hard it must be to be a relative of somebody in that tragic state, and I wouldn't want to inflict that on my relatives if I could help it.

"Prolonged death" - yep, pretty much sums it up for me. IMO it increases the agony for both patient and carer.

I'm also pretty sure he knows I'm on the organ donor register and that I ticked the "rip anything out that might be useful to somebody" box. I'm not precious about my organs - let's upcycle!
re: Life Support? If you had to make this awful decision, which would you choose?
By colleeflower28
On Tue May 29, 2012 08:52 AM
DefyingGravity wrote:

When I'm older, I'll get DNR/DNI tattooed in big red letters across my chest. I will NOT be one of those 80 year olds who are intubated or trached in a nursing home taking 50 medications a day.


There was actually an interesting episode of Private practice or greys I think where the guy came in unconscious from an accident and had DNR tattooed on his chest. They had to determine if that was an acceptable form of consent and it was a really interesting thing in my opinion.

Personally, I think I would want to let my family decide how long to keep me alive as long as it was reasonable. If there is no chance whatsoever of recovery I don't need to be kept alive but like DefyingGravity said with a 50/50 chance I would let my family decide how long they needed to keep me going to say goodbye
re: Life Support? If you had to make this awful decision, which would you choose? (karma: 1)
By maureensiobhan
On Tue May 29, 2012 09:49 AM
When I had a severe concussion when I was in a car accident coming up on 28 years ago, I said to my mom a couple of years ago that if I had been put on a life support ventilator, I would hope that she and my dad would have cared enough about me to tell the doctors to pull the plug. I would never have wanted to be kept "alive" unable to move or communicate in any way and with a bunch of needles and tubes stuck in me. She said that she and my dad would have told the doctors to pull the plug. When she herself had the brain bleed, was sedated on Propofol, and was on a ventilator, a lady doctor told us that we could have a DNR or DNAR (do not attempt resuscitation) posted by her bed. We immediately agreed to have a DNR sign posted on her chart. When the nurse in the Pastoral Care unit showed us that the monitor was showing that the breathing line was a flat line, we immediately made the firm decision to have the breathing tube removed, as it was perfectly clear that she wasn't going to survive the brain bleed stroke. We knew that even if she had managed to survive, she would never have been able to function again, as too much of her brain had got damaged from the bleed. My dad told the nurse, "She would never have wanted to "live" like that.". She had a living will and my dad too has a living will drawn up. I really should get such a document arranged for myself.
re: Life Support? If you had to make this awful decision, which would you choose? (karma: 1)
By Wicked_Elphabamember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member
On Tue May 29, 2012 10:25 AM
My husband and I have living wills for this very reason. We both would see it all the time, families that can't let go. He knows my wishes and I know his.

The Terri Schiavo case was a perfect example of what happens if you don't have a paper trail designating your wishes.
re: Life Support? If you had to make this awful decision, which would you choose? (karma: 1)
By Heartmember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member
On Tue May 29, 2012 01:27 PM
Edited by Heart (21721) on 2012-05-29 13:54:18
Edited by Heart (21721) on 2012-05-29 13:59:41
^ After seeing the Terri Schaivo case growing up, I decided that as soon as I turned 18 I would write a living will. My mom asked to get medical power of attorney over me if I became incapacitated. I said yes... only if I had a living will telling her what to do. So I do.

Here is what it says:
1. There are circumstances in which I would not want my life to be prolonged by further medical treatment... In the following, I specify the circumstances in which I would choose to forego life-sustaining measures:

a. If there should come a time when I become permanently unconscious, and it is determined by my attending physician and at least two additional physicians with appropriate expertise who have personally examined me, that I have totally and irreversibly lost consciousness and my capacity for interaction with other people and my surroundings, I direct that life-sustaining measures be withheld or discontinued... I direct that I be given all medically appropriate care necessary to provide for my personal hygiene and dignity.

b. I realize that there may come a time when I am diagnosed as having an incurable and irreversible illness, disease, or condition which may not be terminal. My condition may cause me to experience severe and progressive physical or mental deterioration and/or a permanent loss of capacities and faculties I value highly. If, in the course of my medical care, the burdens of continued life with treatment become greater than the benefits I experience, I direct that life-sustaining measures be withheld or discontinued...

c. Examples of conditions which I find unacceptable:

1. If my body becomes completely paralyzed, to the extent that I am unable to communicate my wishes with the outside world, regardless of whether or not I retain cognition;

...3. If aforementioned paralyzation, brain damage, or other illness would cause me to no longer be an intelligent and productive member of society, or would require constant care by others...

...5. I do not wish to be in a long-term coma or vegetative state...

C) 1. If I am in any of the situations described in (B), if my demise could not be accomplished by any other means, I wish that artificially provided fluids and nutrition be withheld, and I be allowed to die; but only if this is the only method possible...

D) 1. Before terminating life-sustaining measures, wait for a short period of time to allow for those medical miracles which do occur on occasion, on the chance that I may wake up or regain brain function.

2. The exact length of time I trust to my medical proxy's judgment, based on the severity of my condition and the amount of physical or mental discomfort they believe I am experiencing. The waiting period must be no less than one week and no greater than three months.


I am also an organ donor. My body will then be returned to my family and cremated.

I've never heard a single healthy person I know say they would choose to keep their body alive if it meant they could never speak again and had to be totally dependent on others to empty their tubes and bags.

My ex was like this. At all costs, he would want to be kept alive, no matter what. He would never want that plug pulled. I know, it was nuts. He also said that he could never kill anyone else, to which I told him that's why I had legal documents - no one else would get to make that choice for me!
re: Life Support? If you had to make this awful decision, which would you choose? (karma: 1)
By CaffeinePremium member
On Tue May 29, 2012 05:30 PM
If (heaven forbid!) I was in a situation where I had to be hooked up to life support, I would not want to be resuscitated if said life support failed.

As everyone else has already mentioned, it's no way to live. And I also think it's profoundly selfish to want to linger in a state of living death and not allow your loved ones the chance to grieve for you and move on. If something happened to me, I would want those I love to be happy - to live their lives, not feel chained to a duty to sit by my bedside for the next ten, twenty, thirty years hoping to see an eyelid flicker. It's just not fair to them.

If the essence of what makes me "me" is gone, don't keep the empty packaging.
re: Life Support? If you had to make this awful decision, which would you choose?
By dreamyangel
On Fri Jun 01, 2012 01:14 PM
As blunt as this is, pull the plug and harvest my organs ... asap. If I'm not me anymore, just an assisted beating heart, I don't need to be here. All I'd be doing is causing prolonged suffering for my family. I watched my mom pass away and she got to a point where she couldn't really see, could speak, only moaned and wasn't moving. When she was in her late 20's, she was diagnosed with cancer and told the only way she would survive was if she had massive amounts of radiation. She lived but 30 years later, the radiation poisoning caught up with her and she was too ill to revive. For 2 months I watched her wither away. In reality, that is really fast compared to some but it was rough. That being said, I don't want to live that way. She didn't need a machine to keep her alive but if I did, I want it shut off. Let me go meet Jesus and if possible, give some people a new lease on life.
re: Life Support? If you had to make this awful decision, which would you choose?
By schuhplattlerPremium member
On Fri Jun 01, 2012 06:17 PM
Dreamyangel, I would go farther. This body has an absolute right to slam dead, Boom, at any time except when so doing would endanger severely the lives of others (e.g. when behind the wheel in traffic), but:

Any slower or incomplete movement in that direction is strictly forbidden.

Or at least I am doing my doggondest to follow that rule - not totally succeeding.

Really, those who would accept prolonged mechanical life support simply have no awareness of themselves as spiritual beings. I say this even though in my youth I was an atheist for years.
re: Life Support? If you had to make this awful decision, which would you choose?
By hummingbird
On Fri Jun 01, 2012 09:29 PM
I'm going to play devils advocate a bit here. I did vote for 'No way! Having machines breathe, eat, and evacuate for me isn't life. It is prolonged death.'but then I remembered a dancer I was lucky enough to study with.

She had danced with Royal Swedish Ballet and was at my college because her teacher wasn't well enough to get her through her associate exam. Her teacher was a lady called Elizabeth Twistington Higgins who had been a promising student at the Royal Ballet School and was struck down with Polio, she was paralysed from the neck down and was only kept alive because she lived in an iron lung. She went on to run her own dance company, worked with the Royal College of needlework, was a very successful mouth artist as well as having taught this absolutely amazing dancer.

What would you have done in this position?

Polio nearly always leaves a paralysis of some degree, in this case it was about as bad as it could be especially seeing as this young woman was a dancer and instructor. If she hadn't been put in the iron lung then she would have died and she would never have taught the young woman I danced with and the picture in my post would never have been painted. In short it would have been a loss to the world.

Here's a transcript from a BBC TV show called 'This is Your Life'. They had her as a guest back in the sixties, there was also a documentary of her life introduced by Rudolf Nureyev back in 1980 called 'The Dance Goes On'

www.bigredbook.info . . .
re: Life Support? If you had to make this awful decision, which would you choose?
By LlamaLlamaDuckmember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member
On Fri Jun 01, 2012 09:34 PM
I have had this discussion with my husband, and I know for sure that I need to make a living will as I have a feeling that he would really have a hard time respecting my wishes.

If I'm essentially a shell of a person I don't want to live if there is no quality of life... hubby is the type that says that what if they find a cure the day after the plug is pulled.

I'm all for doctor assisted suicide though, so maybe my opinion is a bit one sided, but we seem to be more humane with our animals.
re: Life Support? If you had to make this awful decision, which would you choose?
By DanceCrazyMum
On Fri Jun 01, 2012 11:45 PM
Hmmmm, well I was in a serious road accident aged 10 and sustained serious head injuries, a fractured skull and an acute subdural hematoma, i was being kept alive on a life support machine with my parents being told there was a 50% chance i'd survive and only a 10% chance IF I survived that I'd be "normal".

As I'm writing this today it's obvious I came out of that coma and other than memory loss from before the accident I am fine. I woke from the coma aware of who all my family were I just couldn't remember birthdays,holidays etc.

At the time my parents did say - and still to this day say, they would of rather lost me than watch me sit and dribble in a chair.

It's an awful dilemma, I was lucky but it could of so easily gone the other way - I honestly don't know what I would do faced with the decision!
re: Life Support? If you had to make this awful decision, which would you choose?
By SiyoNqobamember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member
On Sun Jun 03, 2012 08:41 PM
Edited by SiyoNqoba (34789) on 2012-06-03 20:51:53
I'm going to go against the grain a little here and say that I'll let my husband decide for me.

There are hundreds of different scenarios, and I don't think I could imagine every single one of them and decide what I want to happen. Knowing my husband's beliefs, I think he'd choose to turn the life support off. Which, if I were unconscious, I would never even know about.
re: Life Support? If you had to make this awful decision, which would you choose?
By Summer
On Sun Jun 03, 2012 08:52 PM
SiyoNqoba wrote:

I'm going to go against the grain a little here and say that I'll let my husband decide for me.


And I would NEVER want my husband to decide for me. Not because I don't trust him with the matter of my life and death; I absolutely do. But I wouldn't ever want to be in the position where I'd have to make that call for him, and I'd cringe to think that he may ever be in that position for me--I wouldn't want him to have to shoulder that.
re: Life Support? If you had to make this awful decision, which would you choose?
By SiyoNqobamember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member
On Wed Jun 06, 2012 03:40 PM
^My husband hates to feel out of control, and having to turn off life support or leave me as a vegetable because I said so years ago, rather than being able to make an educated decision, would make him feel out of control. I guess it's just about knowing the person who would make that decision for you, and knowing how they would feel about it :)

For the record, we talked about it after I read this thread. He would want life support turned off if he were going to be disabled, which is a big call, but that's what I thought he'd say. He would turn off life support for me if I weren't likely to recover. Being the practical man he is, he said it would be a waste of resources to keep someone alive artificially for too long, lol.
re: Life Support? If you had to make this awful decision, which would you choose?
By ChristinePremium member
On Wed Jun 06, 2012 05:12 PM
Thank you all for your thoughtful replies.

I am so glad so many people are having this conversation while they are able to. When I see the reality of "life support" I think sometimes it is wrongly named.

Whatever our opinions, it is important for all of us to consider our own wishes and make them known. It is an awful burden for others if we don't.

Keep On Dancing*
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