artificial life support


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artificial life support,

systems that use medical technology to aid, support, or replace a vital function of the body that has been seriously damaged. Such techniques include artificial pacemakerspacemaker, artificial,
device used to stimulate a rhythmic heartbeat by means of electrical impulses. Implanted in the body when the heart's own electrical conduction system (natural pacemaker) does not function normally, the battery-powered device emits impulses that trigger
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, internal defibrillatorsdefibrillator,
device that delivers an electrical shock to the heart in order to stop certain forms of rapid heart rhythm disturbances (arrhythmias). The shock changes a fibrillation to an organized rhythm or changes a very rapid and ineffective cardiac rhythm to a slower, more
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, dialysis machines (see kidney, artificialkidney, artificial,
mechanical device capable of assuming the functions ordinarily performed by the kidneys. In treating cases of kidney failure a tube is inserted into an artery in the patient's arm and blood is channeled through semipermeable tubes immersed in a bath
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), and respirators. The use of life-support systems to prolong the life of a patient who has suffered apparently irreversible damage to a vital organ system may raise such ethical issues as the quality of life, euthanasiaeuthanasia
, either painlessly putting to death or failing to prevent death from natural causes in cases of terminal illness or irreversible coma. The term comes from the Greek expression for "good death.
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, and the right to die, and has been the subject of much legal and moral debate. Some people specify their wishes concerning prolonged artificial life support, especially should they be in a persistent vegetative state (see comacoma,
in medicine, deep state of unconsciousness from which a person cannot be aroused even by painful stimuli. The patient cannot speak and does not respond to command.
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), in a living willliving will,
legal document in which a person expresses in advance his or her wishes concerning the use of artificial life support, to be referred to should the person be unable to communicate such wishes at the end of life.
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. A health-care proxyhealth-care proxy,
legal document in which a person assigns to another person, usually called an agent or proxy, the authority to make medical decisions in case of incapacitation. It is, in essence, a power of attorney for health care.
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 is another legal means of insuring that a person's wishes regarding artificial life support are respected, even if the person is unable to communicate those wishes.
References in periodicals archive ?
Controlled asystolic organ recovery occurs when the family consents to removal of artificial life support in the operating room.
After consent is obtained, removal of artificial life support (extubation and withdrawal of all pressor support), occurs in the ICU or ER after the necessary personnel and equipment are made immediately available.
Judge Greer's decision was based largely on Michael Schiavo's assertion that, before her heart attack, Terri told him she would not want to live on artificial life support, the Miami Herald reported.
Cruzan is thus transformed into an abortion opinion as the court seems to say that it would be difficult to explain why the state could permit parents to withdraw artificial life support from their adult daughter, but not from a frozen embryo.
Living Wills, also known as an Advanced Health Care Directive, allows the user to communicate their end-of-life wishes should they not be able to communicate them when the time comes -- whether they would like to be kept on artificial life support if they are ever permanently unconscious or otherwise dying and unable to speak for themselves.
As the National Conference of Catholic Bishops argued in their 1995 "Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services," in withdrawing artificial life supports, one is not killing a patient, only accepting "our human limitations to reverse the dying process.