Should you shut off life support?
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Question: Should I shut off life support for my 61-year-old brother? He is in the hospital on a respirator. The family wants to withhold medical treatment and let him die.
Answer: I too had to decide whether to shut off life support for someone I love. Many years ago, I was married to a woman named Jeannette. We had been married for three years when she was 24 years old. The doctors said that although her medical treatments might keep her alive for two or three more weeks, she would have no quality of life. The final decision was to shut off her medical equipment. That was fifty years ago, and I have never regretted the decision. Such decisions are always difficult, especially since God has given humans the ability to develop ways to cleanse the blood, and keep it flowing to the body and brain.
Some people say we are playing God by trying to keep a patient alive through life support means. Others say we are playing God by pulling the plug. I do not subscribe to either idea, as God can take a person’s life while he or she is on a respirator, or prolong it if taken off. God knows what is best, and does not need any advice from us.
The advantage of life-sustaining equipment is they provide relief from the body’s need keep the vital processes functioning, thus making the healing process easier, in the same way putting a broken arm into a cast does. It is simply temporary support. Considering this, the question becomes one of whether to provide support for the body while it heals, or to remove the support and force the body to work harder during the healing process, should God choose to keep the patient alive.
I recommend seriously considering, as I had to, the kind of life the person in question will have if they stay on medical devices that keep them alive. My wife's doctors informed me that, for however long she lived, my wife would experience an increasing amount of pain. I talked it over with Jeannette and we decided that, in order to give her relief from further agony, the machines connected to her be shut off. Within a few hours of "pulling the plug,” she peacefully breathed her last.
Before making such a serious decision, have a family conference with the doctor regarding the likelihood of your brother living without the respirator. If possible, discuss the situation with your brother. If he is capable of deciding for himself, you should abide by his choice.