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    Should there be ethical limits to the use of medical technology to prolong life?  An example of technology to prolong life would be life support. There are many types of life support such as ventilators, artificial nutrition and hydration (or tube feeding), and kidney dialysis. There are many positives to life support but just like anything else there are also negatives. In some cases life support just prolongs the patient’s suffering. In other cases life support can harm the family members by giving them false hope. There are many scenarios in which life support can be used, such as when a patient is waiting for an organ transplant. When many think of life support they always assume that the case is extreme. However this is not the case, someone who is on life support can still live a relatively normal life and not be confined to a hospital. Many elderly people have pacemakers to help keep their heart running. While, they might have to visit the doctor more often to make sure the pacemaker is in prime condition they can still hang out with the family and go to their grandchild’s talent show. Keep in mind that there are still very extreme cases in which someone might need to be put on life support and that this is not a light topic. When a family member is put on life support for whatever reason when is the right time to take them off? Should there be different regulations depending on what kind of life support it is? Should there be ethical limits? There shouldn’t be limits to life support, there are already some precautions in place and in the end it is the patient’s family’s decision. Life support help a lot of people out and if there were limits some people might not be given the length of time they need to recover. People can stay on dialysis and for years and live a semi-normal life. If there were limits on this would they need be able to wait long enough for what they need? “Many patients require organ donation(s) to survive and life support really help(s) in this regard” (Md health). As stated in the quote life support can help patients along while waiting for an organ transplant. Many patients have a way to get over their diagnosis, but do not have enough time. Life support gives them that option, it allows them to gain a little more time so they can wait for say an organ transplant. Life support can also help doctors perform risky surgeries on patients. “Since the support machine is capable of aiding a patient through the surgery, it therefore reduces risk of death caused by surgery” (Doyle). This also helps convince apprehensive patients and the family members of patients to agree to having the surgery done. By telling them that if needed there is life support to help the surgery to succeed then it will make it easier for the patient or family to say yes to it. There are many life support options out there for people to take and there are also ways out there for people to avoid it if they want to. “A do-not-resuscitate order, or DNR order is a medical order written by a doctor. It instructs health care providers not to do CPR of a patient’s breathing stops or if the patient’s heart stops beating” (medline plus). If a patient knows that they have a life threatening condition they can make the decision if if they want to receive life support or not. If the patient decides that they don’t want to receive life support they can sign the DNR form. As a result of the DNR form there is a choice given to the patient and that choice doesn’t have to rest on the family. However not every country has the DNR form available for patients to sign so they do not get that option. There is another way for patients to dictate what they want to happen before it happens. Many countries offer advance directives, which is a document that allows a patient spell out their decisions about end-of-life ahead of time. Life support isn’t always as extreme as some people may consider it. Life support in the form of kidney dialysis not only helps the patient live longer but also helps the person live a semi-normal life in most cases. This form of life support many are put on to wait for a kidney transplant. Tube feeding occurs when the patient cannot hydrate or feed themselves or when the patient has an eating disorder such as anorexia and it has gotten very severe. In some cases tube feeding can be used as a tool to prolong life or as an aid. It is the same case with kidney dialysis. In extreme cases patients can be put on ventilators. Ventilators are used when patients have a medical problem that makes it hard to breathe. In some cases ventilators not only helps the patient breathe but does it for them. Using a ventilator would be an extreme case because of the fact that there is no other option. In kidney dialysis the patient can get a new kidney and stop the treatment. In tube feeding the patient can gradually start eating real foods. These are generalisations and there will always be exceptions to the rule.     While life support is a great thing to have in some cases it does more harm to the patient than it does good. One problem is that families do not realise that being brain dead is as final as a cardiac death. “The term “life support” exacerbates the problem, too, because those who are brain dead do not have a life to sustain” (Landou) Being brain dead means that a patient either had irreversible cessation of circulatory and respiratory functions or irreversible cessation of functions in the brain. Once a person is brain dead they will either not come back or if by some miracle they do, they will not be really the same as they were before. However if the families don’t understand this they will put the patient on life support with some hope that they will come back. This hope is false hope and can really destroy a person. Another problem with life support is that being put on life support can actually prolong the patient’s suffering in some cases. For example if a patient who has had cancer for a while is put on life support the cancer could spread more and actually harm the patient more. Many patients with a terminal illness such as cancer may opt out of life support. They know that they have fought as hard as they can and sometimes it’s just their time to go. The problem with this is that sometimes the patients do not inform their family about their decision and is put on life support. In some cases when the person is put on life support for a while the doctor will say one thing but the family will say another. Sometimes it’s not even the family and doctor that doesn’t agree it’s the family who does agree with each other. However doctors are working to try and mend the communication on their end. “Physicians use varying communication and negotiation strategies to resolve conflicts with dying patients. The most common approach, listed be 71% of physicians in a study, was directly educating and negotiating with patients about potential misunderstandings” (Way). Even with this there is still the fact that families may cling to life support as a saving grace. They see the that patient is declining/not making any improvement and ignore what advice the doctor is giving them and use life support as their way of denial. Denial that the patient is dying and that the patient will soon wake up as good as new. While the main person to be concerned with is the patient the patient’s family does need to be taken into consideration too. Having someone tell you that your loved one has a chance of making it and they don’t is soul crushing. When dealing with the family the professionals need to make sure that they use clear terminology so that the family doesn’t misunderstand the situation. “Euphemisms for dying are used to make the communication more comfortable for the person breaking the bad news. However, these ambiguities will block effective understanding on the part of the family and additional discussions and decisions will be impaired” (Campbell). If this is not done the emotional damage to the families might increase tenfold. The sources used for this argument where relatively good sources to use. Two of them have medical backgrounds so they have experience in these types of situations. Jenny Way is a physician in Washington, Margret has a PhD and is a registered nurse. Elizabeth Landau however has no medical background. She graduated from Princeton and has worked for Discover. After doing research my opinion is that there should be a compromise. There should not be set unchangeable ethical limits. If the doctor feels as if the patient needs to be taken off of life support and the family doesn’t agree there should be a committee who can be called in. The committee would then evaluate the situation and give their educated opinion about what should happen to the patient and positive able to enforce it. This committee should have elected members who have gone through an ethics training and know all the medical options that the patient or doctor could take instead of taking away life support. Life support has amazing positives to it and there shouldn’t be a restriction to the amount of time anyone can be on life support because every case is different. Each case should get it’s on personal unbiased investigation by the committee where the members take in all the facts and decide what should happen. 

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