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
..... Click the link for more information. , 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
..... Click the link for more information. , 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
..... Click the link for more information. ), 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.
..... Click the link for more information. , 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.
..... Click the link for more information. ), 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.
..... Click the link for more information. . 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.
..... Click the link for more information. 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.