When I Would or Wouldn't Want Life-Sustaining Treatments

Life-sustaining treatments are medical treatments that keep you alive for a while but don’t cure you or make you better. They include

  • CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation)
  • Breathing machines (mechanical ventilators)
  • Kidney dialysis
  • Feedingtubes(tubesthatprovidewaterandliquidfood)

Just like people have very different views about how they want to live, people also have different ideas about their death. Some people want treatments that will keep them alive as long as possible in all situations. Others feel strongly that they wouldn’t want these treatments.

As you think about life-sustaining treatments, remember the experiences you've had with your own family or friends. Also remember that it's hard to know what your life would really be like with serious physical or mental problems, unless you've had direct experience. Healthy people may assume that a serious health problem or a severe disability would make their lives terrible. But people often change their minds when their health starts to get worse. This means that how you feel today might not be how you would feel later if your health got worse. In fact, many people learn to adjust to these situations very well.

If you want to indicate your general views about life-sustaining treatments, check one of the boxes below: (Part 1 of 2)
  • I'd always want my doctor to use medical treatments to prolong my life as long as possible, no matter what my situation is. I can’t imagine any situation in which I wouldn’t want my doctor to use life-sustaining medical treatments.
  • I'm not sure. There might be some situations in which I wouldn't want my doctor to use medical treatments to prolong my life as long as possible.
  • There are definitely some situations in which I wouldn't want my doctor to use medical treatments to prolong my life as long as possible.

Imagine that in the future you have a serious health condition that your doctors expect to be permanent. You're too sick to make your own healthcare decisions. Next,imagine that someone needs to decide whether to use life-sustaining treatments on you.

Think about each situation on the left side of the charts and ask yourself, "In this situation, would I want life-sustaining treatments?" In other words, would you want your doctor to use (or continue) life-sustaining treatments to prolong your life? Or, instead, would you want your doctor not to provide life-sustaining treatments (or to withdraw them) and allow you to die? Or, are you not sure because your answer would depend on the circumstances? Remember as you fill out this worksheet that you’re too sick to make your own health care decisions.

Medical Situations: (Part 2 of 2)
Medical Situation I would want life-sustaining treatments. I'm not sure. It would depend on the circumstances. I would NOT want life-sustaining treatments.
If I am unconscious, in a coma, or in a vegetative state and there is little or no chance of recovery.
Explanation (i.e., comments, clarifications):
If I have permanent, severe brain damage that makes me unable to recognize my family or friends (for example, severe dementia).
Explanation (i.e., comments, clarifications):
If I have a permanent condition where other people must help me with my daily needs (for example, eating, bathing, toileting).
Explanation (i.e., comments, clarifications):
If I need to use a breathing machine and be in bed for the rest of my life.
Explanation (i.e., comments, clarifications):
If I have pain or other severe symptoms that cause suffering and can't be relieved.
Explanation (i.e., comments, clarifications):
If I have a condition that will make me die very soon, even with life-sustaining treatments.
Explanation (i.e., comments, clarifications):
Other:
Explanation (i.e., comments, clarifications):
Other:
Explanation (i.e., comments, clarifications):
Worksheet Complete!

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