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Hospital  >  Departments  >  Critical Care Medicine  >  Navigating the ICU  >  What do I need to know about end-of-life care?  >  What will happen if we decide to withdraw life support?

What will happen if we decide to withdraw life support?

It can be very difficult to make the decision to withdraw life support, but the team will continue to care for your loved one in order to control pain and discomfort.

  • Before withdrawing life support, members of the care team will explain what they are doing;
  • They may remove life support slowly or quickly, but as they remove life support they will give medications to make sure that your loved one does not suffer;
  • You may notice that your loved one starts to breathe more quickly, or you may hear noises when they breathe;
  • If your loved one appears to be feeling any pain or suffering, the team will give medication to provide relief;
  • You can be present at the bedside throughout the process, or you can choose to stay outside of the room. Either option is okay.

Read more about the Hospital’s Quality of Dying Initiative, what to expect in the last hours of life, copying with the death of a loved one, and watch a video about on how decisions are made at the end of life Link will open in a new window

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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