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What are some medical interventions/treatments to consider when preparing advance directives?

It can be difficult to predict exactly what circumstances you will be in if you are ill and unable to communicate, so many professionals advise their clients to keep things simple and let their health care agent use their best judgment. However, some individuals feel strongly about whether they would want to receive certain types of interventions. These interventions may include:

  • Artificial respiration (the use of a ventilator or other device to breathe for you or help you breathe)
  • Artificial nutrition (the use of a feeding tube through your nose and throat, or surgically placed into your stomach to help you eat, or in rare cases through a drip into a vein)
  • Artificial hydration (when a small tube is placed in a vein through which fluids can be given to you)
  • Handfeeding (if you have dementia, you may be unable to feed yourself and so a caregiver may place food on a spoon or other utensil and place it in your mouth). Some people would not want this if it would prolong their lives when they have late-stage dementia. This is covered in our Dementia Directive.
  • Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) (an effort to keep your heart beating and lungs breathing if your breathing or heart stops)
  • Antibiotics (given if there is a known or suspected bacterial infection but carry some side effects). Some people, in particular those with an end-stage terminal illness, do not want antibiotics. For example, if it will make them feel better, but not if it may make them feel worse or prolong their suffering.

These are just some examples of things to consider. These are very personal decisions and there are no right or wrong answers.

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