Oxygen at End of Life - Who Does It Comfort?

Dear Barbara, Could you address the use of oxygen as a comfort measure? I don’t mean as a result of measuring the SATs, but as a source of comfort to the patient.

There is research saying that administering oxygen as the end of life approaches doesn’t prolong life or even have any beneficial effects. It states that the physical body is so compromised due to decreased circulation and lung congestion that there is no effect. The body is shutting down, nothing works right, so it can’t process the oxygen that is being pushed into it.

My opinion? We need to ask why we are thinking about giving the oxygen. Is it because the person looks like they are having difficulty breathing? Well, as death approaches a person has difficulty breathing. There is congestion (depending upon how hydrated or dehydrated they are). There are the mouth movements that look labored, restlessness. Often there are sounds as breath goes in and out of the mouth. These are part of the normal way a body dies. Remember “nothing works right, everything is shutting down”. We are watching a “chick getting out of its shell”. There is labor involved in getting out of our body.

For us it is very difficult to see our loved one struggling. Most of us are at the bedside of someone who is dying because we are emotionally involved. We are watching with our hearts and emotions, not our intellect, our minds. When we have knowledge of the dying process, when we can understand that what we are seeing is normal, our mind can tell our heart “nothing bad is happening here. It is sad but nothing bad”.

Now back to oxygen--what do we have to lose by administering oxygen as end of life approaches? A few dollars to set it up and pay for it, and it probably won’t be of any help in easing the breathing challenges. Basically that is the downside. The up side is MAYBE it will bring a bit of ease to the patient and for sure it will bring comfort to the watchers. The watchers will feel they are doing something and that they tried to make their loved one more comfortable.

End of life work is not about just taking care of the patient. It is about caring for the family and significant others as well. Oxygen at the end of life can be considered a comfort measure for the family.

Something More about Oxygen at End of Life: In my book The Eleventh Hour, the companion book to Gone From My Sight, I go over the use of oxygen in the final days of life. There is special care for the mouth that needs to be given when oxygen is used which is outlined in the book.



Related products



Hi Faye, COPD is a horrific disease. My heart goes out to anyone suffering with it. About your brother; I do not have enough information about his medical history to comment on his treatment. I can say that I m puzzled by the comment he was receiving so much oxygen he couldn’t get it at home. To my knowledge when a concentrator can’t provide enough oxygen, home equipment companies can bring in tanks of oxygen and, although it will use up more rapidly, can supply whatever quantity is needed. I don’t see why he had to be in the hospital unless there was another reason. He could also go to a rehab or nursing facility and receive the same oxygen concentration as a hospital—so that doesn’t make sense to me.
Was your brother euthanized by the lowering of the oxygen and use of morphine. I just don’t have enough information to know. You can always make an appointment with the attending physician and ask your questions, express your concerns, and see what the answer is.
May blessings are with you. Barbara


My brother in law suffered from COPD and was tethered to oxygen for years. His mind was extremely alert until death. In his last days, his body required higher oxygen levels than the home oxygenator could supply so he was transported to the hospital. The doctor decided to reduce the oxygen rate, Joe was given morphine and was dead within hours. I often wonder if this was euthanasia. He would have had to live the rest of his life in the hospital to get enough oxygen but neither he nor his family was given the option to choose. In my head, I know he had a limited time left but in my heart, it was cruel to hear and see the doctor turn his oxygen supply down. This was done to speed his death. Again he was awake, talking, and alert when the doctor made that judgement without consulting his family. He was not in a vegetative state or coma. Just seems like euthanasia to me.


Hi Mary, in response to your question, was your father dead when you turned off the oxygen. Yes, he probably was (but even if he wasn’t, turning off the oxygen at that point would not have affected the time of his death). It appears to me he wanted you to be with him when he left. He waited for you to arrive and died after everyone else left. He gave you a beautiful gift. Blessings! Barbara

Mary Friedman

My dad was in a nursing home. He was dying. I got to his nursing home where he was surrounded by family. He told them he was waiting for me before he went unconscious. He squeezed my hand. He was on oxygen (tube in his nose). After a few hours family left for dinner. I watched his artery in his neck go up and down. I felt he was gone. I shut off oxygen and the artery was still. Does this mean he was already gone.


My mom has passed. During this process I noticed 2 things: 1) She had no problem taking in oxygen through just her nose. Her O2 in her blood remained in the 90’s. 2) The nurse decided to “help her breath better, through her mouth”, and put a mask on. Quickly I, but not the rest of my family, noticed her chest immediately rising with each breath. I asked myself why and then outside the room I asked the nurse. I asked her why she did that, bc it was obvious to me my Mom was laboring much more to breath. The nurse gave me an answer I fought, tried to explain to my family what I witnessed, and I asked then to see the Doctor on the floor. He seemed to agree with me, but when my father forced me out of the hospital I found out from my sister that the mask was never taken off; i.e. the nose tube was never put back on. (The nurse explained to me, despite me witnessing the difference in my Mom’s comfort, that she, the nurse, thought it best to keep the mask on. That’s when I asked to talk with the Doctor to get his opinion. He seemed to agree with me, even seemed to gesture to me by nodding his head that the tube in the nose would be used, but when I left the hospital no changes were made. It’s very a aggravating.) I have been working as a Personal Care Worker for 10 years. My sister, a retired veterinarian technician. And my brother, a soon-to-be retired assistant manager of a Home Depot. My father, 90. And my Mom, 87.

1 2 3 4

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published