Questions for the Patient

All questions are from the patient's perspective.

  • How will I make sure the doctors and nurses understand what I want?

  • How will I make sure I do not suffer?

  • How will I make sure I get the support of my family and friends?

  • How long do I want to stay in the hospital?

  • What am I most afraid of and how will I get help to reduce this fear?

  • How will I get other opinions on what should be done for my condition?

  • The following questions are to be shared with the patient only if appropriate for the patient's situation.

  • How important are independence and self-sufficiency in my life?

  • What kind of living environment is important to me if I become seriously ill or disabled?

  • How do I imagine handling severe illness, disability, dying and death?

  • How do my personal relationships affect my decisions about treatment options?

  • How do my financial considerations affect my decisions about treatment options?

  • How do my religious beliefs affect my decisions about treatment options?

  • If my heart stops beating or I stop breathing, do I want to be resuscitated?

  • If I end up on life support, how long do I want to stay on it?

  • If I should die, am I ready? Is my family ready?

  • Specific Questions with Commentary

    What options do I have?
    You have several choices. You can continue with the curative approach, meaning you have a condition which is curable or from which you can recover. If your condition is not curable, recovery is not possible or you simply do not wish to be treated with curative care, then you can choose comfort care. Comfort care is designed to help you be as comfortable as possible. Testing or other procedures that do not help you remain comfortable are eliminated.

    If I choose not have curative treatment, will the doctors and nurses treat me differently?
    There should be no change in their attitude towards you. Their goal is to help you achieve your desired wishes.

    Can I go home?
    Of course. If at all possible, this is often a good choice. Ask your doctor or nurse if this is an option for you.

    Can CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) save my life?
    Sometimes. Unfortunately, most people who's heart stops beating will die regardless of what the doctors and nurses do.

    Should I have CPR if my heart stops?
    It depends. Since most people die if their heart stops beating, it is important to talk to your doctor. You may be one of the few who would benefit from CPR.

    What else can be done if my heart stops?
    Defibrillation (shocking the heart with electricity) is better at restarting hearts than CPR. CPR only buys time until defibrillation takes place or your doctor finds what caused your heart to stop beating. For defibrillation to work, it needs to be done very quickly, within five minutes.

    What does it mean if the doctor asks "Do you want everything done?"
    The doctor wants to know if you want life support measures, such as breathing machines, CPR, and defibrillation. You may want to postpone this decision until after more detailed discussions with your doctor and loved ones. Try to understand and envision what your life would be like after these measures were provided.

    How long might I be kept alive on life support?
    That is not something we can predict. Depending on many factors, it could be from hours to years. Life support measures partially replace the body's vital functions - they do not cure anything. If life support provides you with a chance of recovery or lifestyle you can accept, you may want to consider it.