What is Life-sustaining treatment?
Life-sustaining treatment is any medical treatment that is intended to prolong or sustain your life. A refusal of all life-sustaining treatment means a refusal of all medical treatments, procedures and interventions aimed at prolonging or sustaining your life.
Here are some examples of life-sustaining treatment:
- Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR)
CPR stands for cardiopulmonary resuscitation. It is an emergency attempt to restart a person’s heart and/or breathing if they have a cardiac arrest. CPR is used to keep the person alive while the cause of the cardiac arrest is found and treated if possible.CPR can include:
- Chest compressions (repeatedly pushing very firmly on the chest in an attempt to pump blood around the body)
- Defibrillation (using electric shocks to correct irregularities in the heart’s rhythm)
- Artificially inflating the lungs (by inserting a tube into the windpipe or by placing an oxygen mask over the mouth and nose, to push air into the lungs)
- Intravenous medication (administering medications such as adrenaline into a vein to improve heart muscle contraction and blood pressure)
CPR success rates vary depending on how well you are in the moments before your heart and/or breathing stop, and how quickly you receive medical treatment. Following CPR a few people make a full recovery, some will still be very unwell and need more treatment, some will never get back to the level of health they had before, and most will not survive.
- Mechanical or artificial ventilation
- Receiving mechanical or artificial ventilation means being put on a ventilator machine that helps you to breathe if you cannot do so on your own. Ventilators are also known as respirators or life-support machines.
- Clinically assisted nutrition and hydration
- If you cannot swallow, you may be given a liquid that contains the nutrition or hydration that you need. This can be given through an intravenous drip (directly into a vein), a tube through the nose or a tube directly into the stomach (sometimes known as a PEG feed).
- Antibiotics can be a life-sustaining treatment if they are for a life-threatening infection. These types of infections (for example, pneumonia) are more common when someone is very ill, for example if they have advanced cancer or have had a stroke. Antibiotics can be given through an intravenous drip (directly into a vein) or by mouth as a tablet or liquid.