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Life support refers to technological devices, primarily respirators, which are intended to keep an individual breathing, when they are incapable of doing so themselves. The primary purpose is to keep a severely injured person alive long enough for the body's healing mechanisms to repair damaged tissues, so the person can breathe normally again on their own. Unplugging one from life support involves the decision to terminate or "unplug" the respirator and other support devices. There was no such thing as artificial life support at the time the official Bible was compiled, less to say in the days each book was originally transcribed. Therefore, we have no direct teachings to lean on, only what we can glean from the principles of Scripture. "Thou shalt not kill," as handed down upon mount Sinai, Exodus 20:13, gives a pretty general guideline to lean upon. Through the Levitical laws we come to understand God's exceptions, such as the need to defend one's life, family, or property, or the carrying out of capital punishment, when carried out according to law. The laws of our nation, which were originally founded upon Judeo-Christian guidelines, were very careful to protect individuals in comas or other helpless conditions. Mercy killing simply was not acceptable. However, the ethical questions regarding unplugging loved ones from life support arose for Christians, when technology developed to the point where a person, with no measurable signs of life, could be kept alive indefinitely in a quasi-alive condition. Since constant overview and maintenance of the life-support equipment, as well as ongoing medical care and observation were required to maintain such a state, the costs could be astronomical and burdensome to family members. Psychological and emotional factors could also be detrimental. Given the fact these patients were incapable of speaking, thinking, or carrying on any other functions, while often creating even greater stress for surviving family members, the strict interpretation of the laws came into question. Justice and mercy were weighed against one another, in accordance with Luke 6:36 and Matthew 5:7, and other guidelines were put into play. Brain activity as measured by EKG or MRI equipment became one of the primary determinants of whether or not someone was actually alive and should be continued on life support. This seemed a reasonable guideline to most, and, though most individuals expire after being disconnected, many many have continued to live. In fact, some have even gone on to recover.
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