The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


An end-of-life glossary

Advance directive: There are two types. A Living Will provides instruction about the kind of medical treatments you want and don’t want. The durable ­power of attorney for health care (also known as health-care proxy or surrogate) allows you to designate another person to represent you in making medical decisions.

Palliative care: Relieving a patient’s suffering by caring for their physical, spiritual and emotional needs when cure is no longer possible.

Hospice: A program of care oriented toward the needs of dying patients. This can happen in the home, hospital or nursing facility.

DNR: Do Not Resuscitate. In event of cardiac or respiratory failure, this informs medical staff that patients desire to die peacefully, with no attempt to revive them. Also called No Code.

Persistent vegetative state: Describes a person whose brain stem functions remain (such as spontaneous respiration), but who has no awareness of self or environment. This differs from a coma, which is a state of deep, prolonged unconsciousness.

“Heroic” or extraordinary measures: Life-sustaining measures intended to be temporary until the patient’s body resumes normal functioning. Measures once “extraordinary” become routine, making this a term of questionable usefulness.


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