St. Luke's Hospital
Located in Chesterfield, MO
Main Number: 314-434-1500
Emergency Dept: 314-205-6990 Patient Billing: 888-924-9200
Find a Physician Payment Options Locations & Directions
Follow us on: facebook twitter Mobile Email Page Email Page Print Page Print Page Increase Font Size Decrease Font Size Font Size
Meet the Doctor
Spirit of Women
Community Health Needs Assessment
Home > Health Information

Multimedia Encyclopedia


    Deciding about treatments that prolong life

    Sometimes after injury or a long illness, the primary organs of the body no longer work properly without support. Your doctor may tell you that these organs will not repair themselves.

    Medical care to prolong life can keep you alive when these organs stop working well.

    • The treatments extend your life but do not cure your illness.
    • These are called life-sustaining treatments.

    Treatments to extend life can include the use of machines. This equipment does the work of the body organ. Examples include:

    • A machine to help breathing (ventilator)
    • A machine to help your kidneys (dialysis)
    • A tube into your stomach to provide food (nasogastric or gastrostomy tube)
    • A tube into your vein to provide fluids and medicines (also called intravenous tube)
    • A tube or mask to supply oxygen

    Making the Decision for Yourself

    If you are near the end of your life or you have an illness that will not improve, you can choose what kind of treatment you want to receive.

    You should know that removing the life support equipment does not end life: the illness or the injury is the cause of the end of life.

    • Talk to your health care providers to learn about life-support care you are receiving or may need in the future.
    • Learn about the treatments and how they would benefit you.
    • Learn about side effects or problems the treatments might cause.
    • Think about the quality of life you value.
    • Ask your doctor what happens if life support care is stopped or you choose not to start a treatment.
    • Find out if you will have more pain or discomfort if you stop life support care.

    These can be hard choices for you and those who are close to you. There is no hard and fast rule about what you may choose. People's opinions and choices often change over time.

    How to Make Your Wishes Known

    Talk to your health care providers about your choices. Other steps you can take to make sure your wishes are followed are:

    • Write your decisions in an advance health care directive.
    • Find out about a do not resuscitate (DNR) order.
    • Ask someone to be your health care agent or proxy. Be sure your proxy knows your wishes and if you make any changes in your health care choices.

    As your life or health changes, you may also change your health care decisions. You can change or cancel an advanced care directive at any time.

    Making the Decision for a Loved One

    You may serve as a health care agent or proxy for someone else. In that role you may have to make the decision to start or remove life support machines.It is a very hard decision to make.

    If you need to make a decision about stopping treatment for a loved one:

    • Talk to their doctor.
    • Review the goals of their medical care.
    • Weigh the benefits and burdens of treatments on your loved one's health.
    • Think about your loved one's wishes and values.
    • Seek advice from other health care professionals, such as a social worker.
    • Seek advice from your loved one's family members.


          A Closer Look

          Self Care

            Tests for Deciding about treatments that prolong life

              Review Date: 4/4/2012

              Reviewed By: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.

              The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

              A.D.A.M. content is best viewed in IE9 or above, Fire Fox and chrome browser.

              Back  |  Top
              About Us
              Contact Us
              Locations & Directions
              Quality Reports
              Annual Reports
              Honors & Awards
              Community Health Needs

              Brain & Spine
              Sleep Medicine
              Urgent Care
              Women's Services
              All Services
              Patients & Visitors
              Locations & Directions
              Find a Physician
              Tour St. Luke's
              Patient & Visitor Information
              Contact Us
              Payment Options
              Financial Assistance
              Send a Card
              Mammogram Appointments
              Health Tools
              My Personal Health
              Spirit of Women
              Health Information & Tools
              Clinical Trials
              Employer Programs -
              Passport to Wellness

              Classes & Events
              Classes & Events
              Spirit of Women
              Donate & Volunteer
              Giving Opportunities
              Physicians & Employees
              For Physicians
              Remote Access
              Medical Residency Information
              Pharmacy Residency Information
              Physician CPOE Training
              St. Luke's Hospital - 232 South Woods Mill Road - Chesterfield, MO 63017 Main Number: 314-434-1500 Emergency Dept: 314-205-6990 Patient Billing: 888-924-9200
              Copyright © St. Luke's Hospital Website Terms and Conditions  |  Privacy Policy  |  Notice of Privacy Practices PDF  |  Patient Rights PDF Sitemap St. Luke's Mobile