Unnecessary Time Pressure in Refusal of Life-Sustaining Therapies: Fear of Missing the Opportunity to Die

American Journal of Bioethics 9 (4):47-54 (2009)
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Abstract

During an illness requiring brief use of life-sustaining therapy, patients and surrogates sometimes feel that LST must be withdrawn before it becomes unnecessary to avoid later being stuck living in a debilitated condition that the patient considers worse than death. This fear depends on the belief that the patient can legitimately refuse only artificial LST, so that if such therapies are no longer required, he or she will have missed the ‘opportunity to die.’ This fear of being stuck with life can lead to premature decisions to terminate LST and is unfounded because adequate ethical and moral justification exists for refusal of not just artificial LST, but also for refusal of natural LST, including oral hydration and nutrition.

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