bioethics, life-sustaining therapy, life-sustaining treatment, life support, moral distress



  1. Wiegand, Debra L. PhD, RN
  2. Grant, Marian S. DNP, RN


Decisions to limit life-sustaining therapy occur often in the critical care setting. Bioethical dilemmas may occur as decisions are made to withhold and/or withdraw life-sustaining therapy. Even when the decision to limit life-sustaining therapy is ethically appropriate and clear, there can be issues. A case will be presented to illustrate dilemmas that can arise as these difficult decisions are made. The following bioethical issues will be discussed: (1) When is it ethical to limit life-sustaining therapy? (2) Who should make decisions when a patient is unable to make his/her own decision? (3) What should be done if a patient's previously stated wishes are not honored? (4) What should be done if a patient is suffering? It is essential that bioethical issues are identified and addressed.