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Editorials |

Withdrawing Life Support From the Critically Ill

David C. McGee, MD; Ann B. Weinacker, MD, FCCP; Thomas A. Raffin, MD, FCCP
Author and Funding Information

Affiliations: Stanford, CA 
 ,  Dr. McGee is a Fellow in the Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine; Dr. Weinacker is an Associate Professor in the Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, and Associate Director of the Intensive Care Unit at Stanford University Hospital; and Dr. Raffin is Chief, Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, Department of Medicine, Stanford University.

Correspondence to: Thomas A. Raffin, MD, FCCP, Chief, Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, Co-Director, Stanford University Center for Biomedical Ethics, Stanford University, 300 Pasteur Dr, Room H3143, Stanford, CA 94305-5236



Chest. 2000;118(5):1238-1239. doi:10.1378/chest.118.5.1238
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The relief of suffering through sensitive and compassionate withholding and withdrawal of life support has become an essential component of the practice of critical care medicine. According to a recent survey of the members of the Critical Care Section of the American Thoracic Society, 96% of the respondents had withheld or withdrawn some form of life-supportive therapy.1 Advances in medical technology now allow the critical care team to keep patients alive who have no chance of making a meaningful recovery. In the past, many of these patients would have died despite attempts to save them. Currently, patients are maintained on artificial life support until the physician or a family member realizes that there is no hope for meaningful recovery and recommends that life support be withdrawn. Between the years of 1987 and 1993, the percentages of deaths in the ICU that followed the withdrawal of life support increased from 51 to 90%.2

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