PHI 3200 Should We Withhold Life Support

PHI 3200 Should We Withhold Life Support

Life support, a critical aspect of medical care, encompasses various interventions to sustain a patient’s life until their body can function independently. These interventions may include the utilization of ventilators, cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), or dialysis (Brody, 2021). 

When patients cannot make decisions, advance directives serve as legal instruments that articulate their preferences regarding end-of-life care. In these directives, patients may include specific orders such as do-not-resuscitate (DNR) or do-not-intubate (DNI). A DNR order specifies that medical staff should refrain from performing CPR if the patient’s breathing ceases, while a DNI order requests that patients not be intubated with a ventilator (Whitlock, 2021; Morrow, 2021).

PHI 3200 Should We Withhold Life Support

However, the presence of advance directives still needs to eliminate the complexities and ethical dilemmas associated with decision-making regarding the limitation of life support. One crucial consideration revolves around the principle of patient autonomy and the potential infringement of this autonomy through paternalistic decision-making. 

Disregarding a patient’s expressed wishes can be seen as personal paternalism, wherein decisions are made based on someone else’s perception of what is best for the patient, thus overriding their autonomy (Munson, 2014). In contrast, when a patient requests a DNR or DNI, healthcare providers are legally and ethically bound to respect and honor those wishes. 

This adherence to patient autonomy also aligns with the principles of utilitarianism, as it seeks to prevent further harm and alleviate suffering for both the patient and their loved ones. By respecting a patient’s DNR request, medical professionals can focus on providing effective symptom management and ensuring the patient’s comfort without unnecessarily prolonging their life (Munson, 2014).

In the realm of ethical considerations, several vital principles should guide clinicians when contemplating the limitation of life support. These principles include respect for patient autonomy, obtaining informed consent, and maintaining patient confidentiality (Baker et al., 2020). 

PHI 3200 Should We Withhold Life Support

Additionally, ethical frameworks such as nonmaleficence (avoiding harm), fidelity (upholding DNR orders), beneficence (improving patient condition), and justice (ensuring fair treatment for all) play significant roles in shaping decision-making (Munson, 2014). By applying these principles, healthcare professionals can strive for desirable outcomes and prevent emotional and psychological suffering for patients and their families.

When making decisions about limiting life support, it is crucial for clinicians to set aside personal biases and values and instead prioritize the well-being and dignity of the patient (Pettersson et al., 2020). It is important to note that even if patients request a DNR, they still have the right to receive appropriate medical care, including antibiotics, pain-relieving medications, and treatment for any other conditions they may have. 

Clinicians must consider the possibility that the patient may be approaching the end of their life and ensure they are treated with dignity, compassion, and respect during this challenging time (Pettersson et al., 2020). Additionally, family members should be treated fairly and provided with the necessary support to navigate the emotional and psychological challenges they may encounter.

PHI 3200 Should We Withhold Life Support

Legislation, such as the Patient Self-Determination Act of 1991, has been enacted to safeguard patients’ rights and empower them to control their medical treatment decisions. This act grants patients the right to determine the course of their healthcare, including the option to refuse or discontinue treatment (Brody, 2021). 

As healthcare professionals, medical practitioners have a moral and ethical responsibility to respect and honor patients’ preferences regarding the limitation of life-sustaining interventions. The Hippocratic Oath, taken by physicians, further emphasizes the importance of nonmaleficence, beneficence, justice, autonomy, and fidelity in patient care. 

Fulfilling this oath requires healthcare providers to strive to heal and respect patients’ choices regarding the end of life. Please do so to uphold the principles and values upon which the medical profession is built (Munson, 2014).

In summary, the decision to limit life support is a complex and multifaceted issue. While medical interventions may be essential in prolonging a patient’s life, respecting their autonomy when they have expressed their wishes through advance directives is vital. 

PHI 3200 Should We Withhold Life Support

Healthcare professionals must navigate the ethical complexities, balancing the principles of nonmaleficence, beneficence, justice, autonomy, and fidelity, to ensure the best possible outcomes for patients and their families. 

By upholding these principles and providing compassionate care, clinicians can fulfill their professional obligations and preserve the dignity and well-being of those entrusted to their care. Moreover, respecting patients’ choices regarding the limitation of life support upholds their autonomy and fosters trust and confidence in the healthcare system.


Morrow, A. R. (2021, July 6). When to Choose and How to Implement a “Do Not Resuscitate” Order. Verywell Health. Retrieved August 19, 2021, from

Whitlock, J. R. (2021, February 13). What Is Intubation and Why Is It Done? Verywell Health. Retrieved August 19, 2021, from

Brody, B. (2021, July 28). What Is Life Support? WebMD. Retrieved August 16, 2021, from

Baker, E. F., & Marco, Catherine A. (2020). Advance directives in the emergency department. Journal of the American College of Emergency Physicians Open1(3), 270–275.

Pettersson, Mikael, Hedström, Maria, & Höglund, Anna T. (2020). The ethics of DNR-decisions in oncology and hematology care: a qualitative study. BMC Medical Ethics, 21, 1-9.

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