Life-Sustaining Treatment

Junior (College 3rd year) ・Healthcare&Medicine ・APA ・5 Sources

For some time, the issue of life-sustaining treatment has brought a lot of controversy in the medical field. The subject has attracted the attention of several sectors including the governments, families, and religious leaders. Life-sustaining treatment refers to the support given to patient, which involves replacing the functions of the body. Often, if a patient has a health condition that is treatable, he or she can be put on life support machine temporarily (Sumathipala et al., 2004). The essence of this act is to ensure that the patient can remain safe until he or she is in a stable condition. In this case, the body of the patient can continue with its standard functions. However, the controversy intensifies when the patient is unable to function normally without the use of life support machines. The decision on whether to take a patient off the life support machines is one of the hardest resolution to the medical professionals. Some laws govern the actions of medical officers which negatively impact on the life-sustaining treatments.


Some life-sustaining treatments are used in the hospitals to make the patients stay longer. These medications help the patient to remain in a stable condition as they continue to recover from their illnesses. The common life-sustaining treatments include cardiopulmonary resuscitation, dialysis, antibiotics, artificial nutrition and hydration as well as mechanical and intubation ventilation.

When a medical practitioner faces the challenge of deciding whether to put a patient on life support or not, he or she has to gather a lot of facts. The stage is crucial as the clinical officers must be able to come up with decisions that are informed and sound. The doctor must understand the burdens and the benefits associated with such treatments. He or she must be able to determine whether the decision will bring joy and relief to the family and loved ones of the patient or not. A beneficial treatment helps in restoring the normal functioning of the body of a patient. The procedure must also help in relieving pain and enhancing the quality of life. However, a similar treatment can be considered to be a burden if it only prolongs the sufferings of a patient who is not improving at all. Some of the procedures can cause more pain to the patient as a well as detract his or her life’s quality (Angus and Burakoff, 2003). Therefore, when a doctor is looking for more information regarding the best life-sustaining treatment to use, he or she must understand its impacts.

Due to the rapid advancement of medical technologies, it has become challenging to exhaust all the available treatment options. When a doctor is tasked with such a decision, he or she is at a risk of making wrong choices. The challenge in making decisions mostly occur when the medical practitioner is unable to predict the recovery of a patient (Harriss and Atkinson, 2009). The decision on whether to start the treatment or not is where the difference emerges. The fact that there is no precise regulation regarding when to withdraw or withhold the treatment of a patient has posed a lot of problems and contradictions. Consideration of the individual's wishes is crucial during this process.

Some regulations make it legal and ethical to stop the medical treatment when the patient is not showing any improvement. Under this provision, the assumption is that the person has died because of the disease and not from the decision to withdraw life support or treatments. The issue has brought a lot of controversies, especially among family members.
Over the years, many medical practitioners have been held in court cases blaming them for the death of patients. Many families have sued doctors for neglect and recklessness without understanding the questionable decisions those clinical officers have to make.


The research paper aims at proposing a law that can help the medical practitioners to offer their services efficiently. A law should be enacted which gives the doctor the permission of discontinuing treatment if a patient fails to respond. The act should be done to avail the life support machine and other resources to those new patients who need them. The law will help to save the life of new patients as well reduce the burdens imposed on the families' patients.

Description of the proposal

The proposal will go a long way in ensuring that medical practitioners are protected from the decisions they make to improve medical services and attend to emergencies. In such circumstances, the law will assist in ensuring that the medical personnel is given an opportunity to exercise their professional skills. The proposal will also help in making sure that doctors make decisions which do not compel them to legal issues, if it was the best option for patients and family members.


The conflict, in this case, comes in when a medical practitioner has to make crucial decisions. The judgments may have both negative and positive impacts depending on how the community considers them. A situation arises when there are inadequate life support machines in a hospital. For example, there may be a patient on life support machine who is showing no signs of improvement. Shortly after, another a patient arrives who is substantially in need of the same machine to stay alive. The doctor is left torn between discontinuing the treatment of the unresponsive patient to save the life of the other. However, the family of such people may see the actions of the clinical officers as unethical. In such cases, the doctor may find him or herself deep in court battles as a result. Logically, it is better for the doctor to stop the treatment of the patient because the therapy has become burdensome. On the other hand, he is also supposed to save the life of the other patient.

Ethically, the family of the patient and some community members can condemn the actions of the doctor. However, an in-depth study of the issue in question will be able to reveal that the actions of the doctor were well informed (Harriss and Atkinson, 2013). Such cases have been on the rise, and as a result, medical practitioners are left with a bunch of enemies.
The fact that patients also have the right of controlling what happens and the treatment services they get, make things worse. One may decide to continue with life-sustaining treatment even after advice by the practitioners to stop. In such a case, it may become difficult for a doctor to choose to save the other patient. He or she will be bound by the laws to respect the right of a patient to receive quality health care. The principle of self-determination requires that the decisions of the patients are considered even if they are wrong. Therefore, the physicians may find it difficult to go through such situations.

Proposed legislation

I propose a law called “Life Support Decision Act.” The bill will ensure that medical practitioners are legally protected from victimization based on the decisions they make. So long as the decision is investigated and found fit, the doctor can be saved from any legal action taken against them. The law will ensure that the practitioners are respected. If the act is to save an emergency situation at the expense of an unresponsive patient, the doctor will be allowed to decide to take the best option.


However, I anticipate that the new legislation will face a lot of opposition which can be contained with time. The first problem may come from the patient’s family. Some of them may be willing to continue spending their finances on treatment even if there are no benefits. To them, seeing their loved one on life support machines is better than accepting the fact that the condition is beyond control. Some religious leaders may also stand against the law citing their stand on the value of human life (Miller and Rosenstein, 2002). These are some of the expected barriers that may arise as a result of enacting the legislation. However, it must be realized that it is essential to create an environment that enhances the professionalism of the medical personnel. In such a situation, it will be easy to save the life of people who are in need of emergency health services.


In conclusion, the issue of life support also known as life-sustaining treatment must be treated with all the urgency it needs. A lot of thoughts must be given to the matter to ensure that physicians are protected from victimization. Therefore, it is crucial that a new law is instituted that will ensure that medical issues are handled both ethically and professionally. The bill will help in saving the lives of many people as well as reducing the burdens imposed on patients due to their huge treatment expenses.


Angus, F., & Burakoff, R. (2003). The percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy tube: medical and ethical issues in placement. The American journal of gastroenterology, 98(2), 272-277.

Harriss, D. J., & Atkinson, G. (2009). International Journal of Sports Medicine–ethical standards in sport and exercise science research. International Journal of Sports Medicine, 30(10), 701-702.

Harriss, D. J., & Atkinson, G. (2013). Ethical standards in sport and exercise science research: 2014 update·. International Journal of Sports Medicine, 34(12), 1025-1028.

Miller, F. G., & Rosenstein, D. L. (2002). Reporting of ethical issues in publications of medical research. The Lancet, 360(9342), 1326-1328.

Sumathipala, A., Siribaddana, S., & Patel, V. (2004). Under-representation of developing countries in the research literature: ethical issues arising from a survey of five leading medical journals. BMC Medical Ethics, 5(1), 5.

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