Death and Legal Issues

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End-of-life decisions

End-of-life decisions are riddled with so many dangers that it is frequently a difficult balancing act between healthcare experts and family members as they come to grips with the finality of life and all the challenges that come with it. Health personnel, whether doctors or nurse aids, first and foremost endeavor to assist the patient in accepting the truth that the end is near (Weinstock, & Johnson, 2011). This is done to ensure that the patient's final hours on earth are pleasant, joyful, and meaningful. They try to ensure the patient does not leave the world with any regrets that could have been avoided such as reconnecting with a long-lost family member or experiencing something they did not try while they were in better health; this could be as simple as trying an exotic dish. The professionals assist the patient in understanding their legal rights and other areas such as organ donation if one is a viable candidate, resuscitation protocol if it ever arises during their stay in the hospital, and also after death arrangements so as not to burden the family excessively (Weinstock, & Johnson, 2011).

Family's role

Family, on the other hand, are the calming factors in this situation, their mere presence is enough to calm down frantic minds. At the end, most people would like to be surrounded by people they love and know. Family also assists the patient in making crucial decisions such as drawing up of wills if one is still of sound mind. Family will also make the last call on whether to switch off the life support machine as they have known the patient all along they would be in a better position to know whether one would have preferred to be let go or hope for some miracle cure in the future.

Legal factors

There are several legal factors associated with end of life decisions, the major one being if a patient is incapacitated and the family does not know what his or her wishes were and cannot, therefore, come to a uniform consent on how to proceed. This is why consent is sought for all medical treatments nowadays. Life support systems are another critical factor namely; whether to withdraw support or continue offering it with religion offering a very tricky perspective since withdrawing life support is tantamount to murder. Conflicts with the patient's representatives, for instance, Terry Schiavo's parents wanted her on life support while her husband wanted her off it, leading to the issue ending up at the Supreme Court (Hastings, 2015). In such scenarios, matters should be referred to the ethics board to come to a position where they can all agree on the best way forward.

Challenges and uncertainties

There is never a right answer to end of life decisions since we cannot primarily speak for another person, we can only try our best in representing them. Decisions will always be challenged as end of life decisions do not bring out the best in humans often times.


Hastings, D. (2015, March 17). Decade after Terri Schiavo case, her family's pain lives on. Retrieved from

Lang, F., & Quill, T. (2004, August 15). Making decisions with families at the end of life - American family physician. Retrieved from

Weinstock, F. J., & Johnson, L. J. (2011, November 25). The physician's role in end-of-life decision-making. Retrieved from

April 19, 2023

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