‘No Intubation’: Seniors Fearful of COVID-19 Are Changing Their Living Wills

May 12, 2020

(Kaiser Health News) – For older adults contemplating what might happen to them during this pandemic, ventilators are a fraught symbol, representing a terrifying lack of personal control as well as the fearsome power of technology. Used for people with respiratory failure, a signature consequence of severe COVID-19, these machines pump oxygen into a patient’s body while he or she lies in bed, typically sedated, with a breathing tube snaked down the windpipe (known as “intubation”). For some seniors, this is their greatest fear: being hooked to a machine, helpless, with the end of life looming. For others, there is hope that the machine might pull them back from the brink, giving them another shot at life.