Life support is used to support or replace a function of the body. In treatable conditions, life support is used temporarily until the body has healed and can resume normal function. If you or a loved one is on life support, it is important to understand the information outlined here so patients or substitute decision makers can make informed decision regarding care.
Understanding treatment options
Decisions regarding life support are both personal and medical. A treatment may be beneficial if it restores function, relieves suffering or enhances a patient's quality of life. The same treatment can be considered harmful if it does not offer any benefit or if it actually diminishes a patient's quality of life. All life support measures are optional treatments.
If a patient or substitute decision-maker chooses not to include some of these therapies in the treatment plan and would like to focus primarily on comfort, it does not mean that all medical care will stop. Care will continue to be provided and guided by the expressed wishes of the patient.
It is important to talk to the health care team regarding the risks and benefits and possible outcomes of each therapy.
Plan of care
To ensure you and your family are making informed decisions, we recommend you talk about the plan of care as a family, with your health care team. The plan of care should reflect the expressed wishes of the patient.
If the patient lacks capacity to make a decision about resuscitation, the patient's substitute decision-maker should make decisions in accordance with the patient's prior expressed wishes (if known) or the patient's best interests. Please bring any documentation that outlines the wishes of the patient to the hospital so it can be reviewed together with the health care team.
Our social workers and the rest of the health care team are here to support and provide resources for you and your family during this difficult time. Interpretation services can also be arranged if you or your family feel this could be beneficial.
Comfort care is a comprehensive approach to treating symptoms of an illness when there is no cure and focuses on the physical, psychological and/or spiritual needs of the patient. The goal is to achieve the best possible quality of life by relieving suffering, controlling pain and symptoms, and attaining maximum independence.