Why are people taken off of life support? What are the downsides for extended use for prolonged life?

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Why are people taken off of life support? What are the downsides for extended use for prolonged life?

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If the patient is not expected to ever recover, there’s no point to prolonging their existence. There are also financial and moral costs to trying to keep such a patient alive. Putting someone on life support requires keeping a doctor and nurse available to keep them alive (inspect them for bed sores, turn/roll them periodically, maintain any drug or dietary regiment), as well as occupying a hospital bed and equipment. Those resources cost money, and could be used to help another patient that has a much better chance at recovery.

If someone is being taken off of life support and allowed to die, it’s because there is no hope for their recovery. They are either braindead (in which case keeping them on life support is arguably a waste of resources as they are effectively already dead) or will have such poor quality of life on life support that they may prefer to die peacefully on their own terms than prolong their suffering indefinitely at great financial cost to their loved ones.

People are put on life support when their bodies are no longer capable of living on their own. There are different types of life support, but they are all there to help assist or replace the functionality of your internal organs.

Life support isn’t always a death sentence. Sometimes it is necessary while while having an operation, for instance artificial heart machines are sometimes used to keep pumping blood during heart surgery. Other times it is temporary while the body fights off an infection, like with ventilators and COVID.

In some cases, it is clear that the person will never recover and will die when taken off life support. In these cases it is often up to a legal representative to decide when to pull the plug.

Most life support systems can’t function forever. Your body is designed to function using your organs, not external machines. Longer term use of machines often results in infections or other problems. So life support systems won’t keep you alive indefinitely, they will just prolong your death from hours to days or weeks. Plus, there is the whatever illness made you sick in the first place, which will often continue to cause problems in your body even while you are on life support.

They take up a bed. They require staff to monitor and treat them. It costs money and resources. It can be an emotional toll on their family and caretakers. In some cases they may have decided in advance that they do not want to be on prolonged life support, or have chosen to donate their organs.