In the 21st century, a rising issue amongst the elderly is the effective administration of critical care for those who are suffering from life threatening diseases and are classified as living in a vegetative state. Currently, patients are obligated to receive life support up until a point where a disease or natural causes results in their death (Wilkinson, 2011). In the eyes of the law and society, leaving a patient who is in a vegetative state on life support is acceptable and and required as it prevents death and prolongs life, particularly the lives of those who have given so much to family and society as whole. However, from an ethical point of view, prolonging life through the use of critical care is not an acceptable societal choice (Vogel, 2011). This paper will effectively argue that by taking patients suffering from life threatening diseases off life support, it provides substantial emotional relief for families connected to the patient and secondly, it also saves time and money for both the family and the system overall.

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Many health systems worldwide fail to understand that patients in a vegetative state are suffering and that by prolonging their life through the use of life support, society is merely prolonging their suffering. In many instances, the patient is completely unaware of their surroundings or issues concerning their disease or condition and would rather die early to avoid any further pain and suffering (Vogel, 2011). In other cases, the patient has complete and utter control of their minds but not of their body, whilst there are also very young patients whose quality of life, which was once completely normal, has been significantly reduced and simply not worth living.

In focusing on the first point of emotional relief for families involved, patients in vegetative states were once actively living and providing their families with much love and quality time. With the use of life support, they continue to live and families can enjoy their presence, however suffer at the thought that their loved one has no quality of life and has been reduced from a normal status to one that is not worth living (as stipulated previously in this paper). Families are also exposed to their loved one slowly or quickly deteriorating and this can be emotionally painful for all involved (Kitzinger, 2013). Once the patient is in a vegetative state, life support can sustain their current state for months or even years and this can also be painful and described as the family simply waiting for their loved one to die. By taking off such patients from life support, emotional relief is quickly achieved as the family can take solace in the fact that their loved one is now resting in peace whilst also understanding that they are no longer suffering. It also provides families with a chance to reminisce about their loved ones when they were living healthy lives (Vogel, 2011). This can be a particularly stressful time for families of loved ones who were young when being reduced to this vegetative state.

In supporting the second main point of this paper, maintaining patients on critical life support or care is expensive and can be financially draining for families involved and also for society overall. By sustaining life support for patients in a vegetative state, hospitals and medical institutions are expending millions of dollars in funds every year and this can cost both the tax payer and respective departments significant amounts of money. It also prevents these institutions from expending more funds on research and areas that will inevitably save for lives (Kitzinger, 2013). For example, the money could be used for transplants and for innovative technology used throughout operations rather than sustaining the life of someone who is in a vegetative state and has no life quality. This also allows hospitals to free up beds and rooms for younger patients and those that require immediate care in order to be treated and to quickly recover. In many instances, emergency cases can not be accepted by hospitals as a result of prolonged life support in emergency wards and intensive care units (Kitzinger, 2013).

Families are also financially burdened by sustaining life support for a loved one in a vegetative state. The cost of keeping a loved one in a hospital bed for months on end can be exceptionally high and result in further emotional strain on the family (Wilkinson, 2011). By taking such patients off life support, families can prevent further financial hardship and can also relish the chance to say their farewells to someone who is now resting in peace. The system is provided with some relief and can dedicate the additional funds and resources to cases where the patient might be able to live a normal life after a transplant or operation.

There are some arguments for the use of life support in the stipulated circumstances such as the small chance that the patient might be able to recover, however with the use of highly innovative equipment and skilled practitioners, an assessment on the patient’s quality of life and associated ramifications can be made relatively quickly and with enough time to save further grief, time and money (Vogel, 2011).

In conclusion, taking patients (in a vegetative state) off life support is an acceptable measure, which can relieve families of further emotional and financial strain. It also allows the patient to rest in peace rather than continuing with pain and the inability to live a normal and happy life. The financial savings associated with this proposed measure are immense and can allow the system and families to do so much more for others who need the urgent medical help to continue living.

  • Kitzinger, C. (2013). Withdrawing artificial nutrition and hydration from minimally conscious and vegetative patients: family perspectives. Journal of Medical Ethics, Retrieved from Accessed on 14th March, 2016.
  • Vogel, L. (2011). Legal ambiguities surround authority to make end-of-life decisions. CMAJ, 183(10), Retrieved from Accessed on 14th March, 2016.
  • Wilkinson, D. (2011). Knowing when to stop: futility in the intensive care unit. U.S National Library of Medicine, Retrieved from Accessed on 14th March, 2016.