Forgo Treatment/Cease Treatment

Know your rights

You have the legal right to refuse medical treatment even if that treatment is necessary to sustain life. These life sustaining interventions can include ventilators, feeding tubes, pacemakers or medication that, if used, would prolong the client’s life. Sometimes done when a patient requests it, but also in accordance with an advance directive or based on judgments of medical futility. Medical futility is when further treatment is incapable of producing the intended result or is ineffective in producing the quality of life that the patient desires.

Every experience is different

For some conditions, a person can experience a peaceful death by stopping a treatment, such as dialysis and insulin therapy (for type 1 diabetes). For other conditions, not starting life-sustaining treatments is an option. Not starting treatment is sometimes the only way for a legal healthcare surrogate to honor the wishes of a loved one who has become demented or incompetent. Medication can be used to lessen symptoms.

Talk to your loved ones

The person should discuss any decision to stop or not start treatment with a medical professional. It is essential that palliative or hospice care be in place for pain, agitation, or symptom management prior to stopping or not starting treatment. If the person is not in a hospital, a New Mexico Medical Orders for Scope of Treatment (NM MOST) form that reflects the person’s wishes should also be available and posted in a prominent place in the home or care facility.