How Do I Respond When Someone Tells Me That Refusing Or Stopping More Medical Treatment Is ‘Losing Faith’ Or ‘Giving Up Hope’?

 

Difficult decisions at the end of life are influenced by individual values and religious beliefs. The most common decisions patients and families face involve CPR, ventilator support, artificial nutrition/hydration, antibiotic treatment, and pain control. While advanced technology offers hope when there’s a strong chance for recovery and life quality, the same technology can be interpreted as interfering in the natural process of dying for those with advanced or terminal disease.

 

So what should be done when someone has a life-limiting disease and a cure is not possible and death is approaching?  If the goal of medicine is to relieve suffering and avoid doing harm, should we continue treatments that are futile and actually make suffering worse?  What is the ethical choice in such situations?

Unfortunately information concerning futile treatment is not always communicated to patients until the final stage of an illness. The Association for Death Education and Counseling suggests that when there is a lack of adequate information, patients and families lose an opportunity to spend time together in a more meaningful way; and they state that: Medical professionals have a sacred trust to offer seriously ill persons truthful information balanced with realistic hope. Many people continue to hope for a miracle long after they know that the illness is rapidly progressing and treatment options are without reasonable promise.

Choosing to ‘let go & let God’ does not mean one is abandoning faith or hope—all we are doing is stepping aside to allow one’s journey to naturally transition from this life to the next.