Canadian Doctors Working on Guidelines for Ideal Way of Withdrawing Life Support

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By Sounak Mukhopadhyay | December 16, 2013 5:55 PM EST

Doctors in Canada are trying to find out the most appropriate way of removing the life support of a patient when the decision is made to do so.

Sharon Kirkey of Postmedia News reflected upon one of the most sensitive issues related to medical ethics. Canada is pondering over the very first guidelines on a national level for determining the best method of withdrawing life support for patients who are most expected to die.

The major goal behind such a decision happens to be the determination of medical standards as well as other issues like providing support to grieving families and minimising the distress of pain of the patient who is about to die, but not dead yet. There are apparently several guidelines present in the country on the ideal timing for withdrawing treatments related to life-sustaining procedures. However, when it comes to real life situations, there is hardly anyone which doctors can follow as a rule of thumb. There should also be guidelines to define the avoidance of procedures which may be considered as something which speeds up the process of death.

Dr James Downar is working with the Canadian Critical Care Society for developing the said guidelines. He is a doctor at the Toronto General Hospital, responsible for palliative care and critical care. According to Dr Downar, there is hardly any evidence which can be termed as the 'ideal way' of doing it. The reason why there can never be a proven way of determining whether any given process is ideal is that the people whom the process is applied on are dead. He also mentions that only a limited number of intensive care units in Canada follow the formal protocol regarding the process of withdrawing life support.

Up to 30 per cent of death of patients in a hospital happens in intensive care units, and a significant percentage of such deaths are caused by the withdrawal of life support.

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