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Why you shouldn’t have life support switched off so quickly

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It’s a decision nobody should have to face—but if you’re asked to switch off life support for a loved one, think twice.

Families of victims with severe traumatic brain injury are often asked for their permission to switch off life support within 72 hours—but up to 40 percent of patients could have recovered sufficiently to live meaningful lives.

Researchers from Mas General Brigham assessed the likely outcomes of 1,392 patients with traumatic brain injury, and compared the lives of those whose life support was not removed with those whose was.

Around 40 percent of those whose life support was switched off would have gone on to live a semi-independent life.  The chances of living in a vegetative state also receded if the patient survived beyond six months.

The findings suggest introducing a longer wait-and-see period way beyond the current 72 hours, the researchers say.  “Traumatic brain injury is a chronic condition that requires long-term follow-ups to understand patient outcomes,” said Yelena Bodien, one of the researchers.

Around five million people around the world suffer traumatic brain injury that requires life support every year.

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References
Journal of Neurotrauma, 2024; doi: 10.1089/neu.2024.0014
Article Topics: life support
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