Visitors are not permitted at Sunnybrook. Read more »

Hospital  >  Departments  >  Critical Care Medicine  >  Navigating the ICU  >  What do I need to know about end-of-life care?  >  What if the doctors can't help my loved one recover?

What if the doctors can't help my loved one recover?

Sometimes patients are too sick to recover, or they will only recover to a very poor state of health. If members of the team feel that your loved one may be too sick to recover, they will talk to you about potential options.

These options may include:

Option one:

  • Continue with life support in the hope that your loved one might still recover;
  • This may seem like a good choice, but remember that life support can be uncomfortable. Some people would be willing to endure discomfort so long as there was a realistic chance of recovery, but most would not want to experience discomfort without benefit.

Option two:

  • Stopping or limiting life support, with the aim of focusing on comfort;
  • This approach would most likely result in the death of your loved one, but if the team does not feel that death can be prevented, it may be better to focus treatments on making sure that his or her final moments are spent in comfort;
  • This can be a very difficult decision to make. Be sure to ask the doctors about the different treatments and the likely result of each one;
  • And there may be other options as well. Keep in mind that you are speaking on behalf of your loved one, and making the decision that he or she would make in the circumstances, even if that decision might not be the one that you would make for yourself.

Back to Main

Satisfaction survey


This is a family satisfaction with care in the ICU survey.

Take the survey >

Location and contact

Critical Care Medicine

Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre
2075 Bayview Avenue, 
D-wing, 1st floor
room D1 08
Toronto, ON M4N 3M5

Phone: 416-480-4522
Fax: 416-480-4999

For information about patients admitted to Sunnybrook's Intensive Care Units, please contact the unit through the hospital switchboard at 416-480-6100