Legal Analysis of Withholding and Withdrawing Life Support from Critically Ill Patients

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Legal Analysis of Withholding and Withdrawing Life Support from Critically Ill Patients

Legal Analysis of Withholding and Withdrawing Life Support from Critically Ill Patients

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Withholding and withdrawal of life support for critically ill patients remain one of the most controversial issues in legal and social aspects.  A number of studies have revealed that most people lose their life in intensive care units owing to withholding or withdrawal of life support and during palliative care.  This has raised ethical and legal issues regarding the implication of these processes in life of patients and impeachment of physicians.  Withholding and withdraw of life support can be described as a process through which a number of medical interventions are withheld or terminated altogether for a given patient due to varying medical reasons, the most prevalent being the believe and expectation that the patients has slim chances of recovering and therefore will eventually die even after administration of the medical processes.  This means that medical practitioners and relatives of the patients perceive medical processes, some of which may be very expensive, as a waste of time and resources (Willmott et al, 2005).  These processes are supported by different ethical principles including autonomy, beneficence, and many others.  The debate on whether to uphold or remove thse process has taken ethical dimensions with little legal dimensions. While most physicians may understand the ethical implications of withholding or withdrawing life support, many do not understand laws governing these processes.  This means that most clinicians make decision based on legal misinformation which means in a way, they may endanger the life of the patient especially when they decide to withhold or withdraw life support fearing legal repercussions (Abraham, 2005).  Therefore, it is important for physicians to understand legal implications of withholding or withdrawing life support for critically ill patients. This paper looks into different legal implications especially on how physicians can satisfy legal requirements during administration of these processes.