Choosing to take someone off of life support is a scary and overwhelming decision. Who ultimately makes that choice, and what needs to be done beforehand?
In the United States, the decision to take someone off life support is generally shared between close relatives and doctors. A wife will likely make the ultimate choice to remove her husband from life support, but she is first counseled by medical personnel.
Making the decision alone is scary, which is why it is best to draw strength from others. There is no shame in seeking counsel.
How to Tell When Someone Needs to Be Taken Off Life Support
There is no “one size fits all” guide to deciding when to take someone off life support. Letting a loved one go is the hardest thing a person can do. That said, if you are struggling with the decision and don’t know what to do, ask yourself the following questions.
1. Will my loved one get any better?
Sometimes individuals on life support have a small chance of getting better, in which case hope will prevent you from choosing to remove them from life support.
2. Will my loved one get any worse?
If there is absolutely no question that your loved one will continue to painfully deteriorate, your decision may be affected for their sake.
3. Are there other treatment options available?
Have you exhausted every possible resource? Be very direct with your loved one’s doctor in that you want to know every possible path and outcome.
4. What do the doctors have to say?
Doctors don’t know everything, but they do know a lot. Do the doctors think your loved one has a chance, or are they firm that there is no hope left?
5. What would my loved one say?
When you come to the hardest decision of your life, ask yourself what your loved one would want you to do. If they have made a Living Will, then you will know their wishes. They would likely want you to make the right choice, even if the right choice is difficult.
Living Wills and Other Documents
The time to discuss this difficult decision is before it’s necessary. However, if you are unexpectedly faced with this difficult decision, see if you can find your loved one’s end of life documents.
You can consult with their lawyer or look in their safety deposit box. If you cannot locate the needed information, there is a national database where the location of the documents can be stored for free. You can make a query and see if your loved one has registered the location of their papers.
The U.S. Will Registry was founded in 1997 to fill an important gap. The location of a registered will or other documents are stored in a database for later access. The U.S. Will Registry provides families and beneficiaries with a means to find lost wills and estate planning documents of those who have passed away.