There is a concern that as a result of COVID-19 there will be a shortage of ventilators for patients requiring respiratory support. This concern has resulted in significant debate about whether it is appropriate to withdraw ventilation from one patient in order to provide it to another patient who may benefit more. The current advice available to doctors appears to be inconsistent, with some suggesting withdrawal of treatment is more serious than withholding, while others suggest that this distinction should not be made. We argue that there is no ethically relevant difference between withdrawing and withholding treatment and that suggesting otherwise may have problematic consequences. If doctors are discouraged from withdrawing treatment, concern about a future shortage may make them reluctant to provide ventilation to patients who are unlikely to have a successful outcome. This may result in underutilisation of available resources. A national policy is urgently required to provide doctors with guidance about how patients should be prioritised to ensure the maximum benefit is derived from limited resources.
Dans l’histoire de notre société, les progrès de la médecine, sur fond de paternalisme hippocratique, conduisent à des avancées considérables comme à des expérimentations de l’homme sur l’homme. Après le code de Nuremberg en 1947, l’autonomie s’impose. Le profane, en particulier le patient, revendique sa place au sein de la décision médicale. En découlent des conflits de valeurs entre acharnement thérapeutique et euthanasie. L’auteur explore ici la démarche éthique clinique menée en unité de soins palliatifs qui tente de répondre à certaines situations complexes en fin de vie. Par une approche sociologique et une introduction à la recherche, nous croisons le vécu de huit acteurs. L’un des points forts qui ressort est une dysrythmie temporelle, entre unicité et routine, temps et durée, que la démarche éthique tente de synchroniser.
The COVID-19 pandemic and its sequelae have created scenarios of scarce medical resources, leading to the prospect that healthcare systems have faced or will face difficult decisions about triage, allocation and reallocation. These decisions should be guided by ethical principles and values, should not be made before crisis standards have been declared by authorities, and, in most cases, will not be made by bedside clinicians. Do not attempt resuscitation (DNAR) and withholding and withdrawing decisions should be made according to standard determination of medical appropriateness and futility, but there are unique considerations during a pandemic. Transparent and clear communication is crucial, coupled with dedication to provide the best possible care to patients, including palliative care. As medical knowledge about COVID-19 grows, more will be known about prognostic factors that can guide these difficult decisions.
In view of the exceptional public health situation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, a consensus work has been promoted from the ethics group of the Spanish Society of Intensive, Critical Medicine and Coronary Units (SEMICYUC), with the objective of finding some answers from ethics to the crossroads between the increase of people with intensive care needs and the effective availability of means. In a very short period, the medical practice framework has been changed to a 'catastrophe medicine' scenario, with the consequent change in the decision-making parameters. In this context, the allocation of resources or the prioritization of treatment become crucial elements, and it is important to have an ethical reference framework to be able to make the necessary clinical decisions. For this, a process of narrative review of the evidence has been carried out, followed by a unsystematic consensus of experts, which has resulted in both the publication of a position paper and recommendations from SEMICYUC itself, and the consensus between 18 scientific societies and 5 institutes/chairs of bioethics and palliative care of a framework document of reference for general ethical recommendations in this context of crisis.
The goal of this paper is to introduce the false hope harms (FHH) argument, as a new concept in healthcare. The FHH argument embodies a conglomerate of specific harms that have not convinced providers to stop endorsing false hope. In this paper, it is submitted that the healthcare profession has an obligation to avoid collaborating or participating in, propagating or augmenting false hope in medicine. Although hope serves important functions-it can be 'therapeutic' and important for patients' 'self-identity as active agents'- the presentation of false hope along the hope continuum entails a misconstrued balancing act. By not speaking up against unrealistic patient and family requests-including some requests for rights to try, resuscitative efforts in terminally ill patients, or other demands for non-beneficial treatments-healthcare providers precipitate harms, i.e., the FHH. These harms arise on both individual and communal levels and cannot be ignored. The goal of this paper is not to offer a definition of false hope, because the phenomenon of false hope is too complex for any simple definition. Instead, this paper seeks to make four points while outlining the FHH argument: consumer medicine and false hope are connected; providers and patients are very vulnerable in the system of consumer medicine; providers have a responsibility to stand up against false hope; and how the FHH argument could perhaps offer a footing to resist giving in to false hope.
The education and clinical application of ethics specific to interventional radiology (IR) is relatively underdeveloped. Beyond palliative care ethics, the underrepresentation of clinical ethics in IR could be due to the way by which it is often presented, because it is frequently viewed in terms of abstract principles and sensational cases rather than how it applies to interventional radiologists’ daily practice. Despite its relative under recognition, ethics is important to all professional groups; it is the collective values that guide our behaviors and allow us to resolve challenging situations that are common in health care.
BACKGROUND: Clinical ethics support services have been advocated in recent decades. In clinical practice, clinical ethics support services are often requested for difficult decisions near the end of life. However, their contribution to improving healthcare has been questioned and demands for evaluation have been put forward. Research indicates that there are considerable challenges associated with defining adequate outcomes for clinical ethics support services. In this systematic review, we report findings of qualitative studies and surveys, which have been conducted to evaluate clinical ethics support services near the end of life.
METHODS: Electronic databases and other sources were queried from 1970 to May 2018. Two authors screened studies independently. Methodological quality of studies was assessed. For each arm of the review, an individual synthesis was performed. Prospero ID: CRD42016036241.
ETHICAL CONSIDERATIONS: Ethical approval is not needed as it is a systematic review of published literature.
RESULTS: In all, 2088 hits on surveys and 2786 on qualitative studies were found. After screening, nine surveys and four qualitative studies were included. Survey studies report overall positive findings using a very wide and heterogeneous range of outcomes. Negative results were reported only occasionally. However, methodological quality and conceptual justification of used outcomes was often weak and limits generalizability of results.
CONCLUSION: Evidence points to positive outcomes of clinical ethics support services. However, methodological quality needs to be improved. Further qualitative or mixed-method research on evaluating clinical ethics support services may contribute to the development of evaluating outcomes of clinical ethics support services by means of broaden the range of appropriate (process-oriented) outcomes of (different types of) clinical ethics support services.
I analyze the insights present in Elisabeth Kübler-Ross's seminal work, On Death and Dying that have laid the foundation for contemporary clinical bioethics as it is practiced by clinical ethics consultants. I highlight the landmark insight of Elisabeth Kübler-Ross that listening to dying patients reveals their needs and enables them to enjoy a better death. But more important for contemporary clinical ethics is that the text highlights three tensions that the clinical ethicist must navigate but can never truly resolve. Clinical ethicists must balance: (1) the need to hear the patient's voice with the temptation to overly medicalize the case, (2) helping the patient achieve a better death with enabling the patient to die in the way he or she chooses, and (3) keeping professional distance with engaging the patient in a way that respects the intimacy of the patient's disclosures.
At times, clinical expertise may not be sufficient to find a way out of a moral impasse, especially in the context of end-of-life and organ transplantation decisions. Advances in medical knowledge and technology, and highly pluralistic and multicultural societies, have led to the emergence of new ethical problems in daily clinical practice along with the need to manage them in a prompt and effective manner. Clinical ethics developed in the late 1970s and early 1980s in North American health care contexts with the aim of identifying, analyzing, and attempting to resolve ethical conflicts and dilemmas at the patient's bedside. At present, only a few regions in Italy have established clinical ethics committees, and Italy may count on a very small number of clinical ethics services fully devoted to ethics case consultation, guidelines development, and the education of health care providers and citizens. Despite this situation, one has to acknowledge both the increasing request for ethics support coming from health care providers who experience an "ethical vacuum" in the Italian health care system and the cultural change that is affecting Italy nowadays. By highlighting clinical examples and sharing experiences, we show and encourage the potential benefits of establishing clinical ethics services in Italian health care contexts.
L’inclusion dans les essais précoces provoque de nombreux questionnements d’un point de vue pratique, mais aussi éthique. L’objectif de ce travail est de montrer que ces enjeux dépassent largement la simple ouverture d’un essai et l’inclusion d’un enfant dont la pathologie correspond aux critères.
Patients often affirm the goal to pursue comfort at the end of life, although clinicians may struggle with how best to provide comfort and face the ethical dilemma of treating or allowing a suspected infection to unfold. Treating an infection at the end of life does not allow for uniform improvement in symptoms and more time with family and friends. Additionally, there is potential for burden to the patient or health care system and treatment may occur to the exclusion of other comfort measures. Currently, the practice of providing or forgoing antibiotics at the end of life is variable, and literature supporting best practices can be contradictory. Data to support the use or withholding of treatment have been scant and vary across settings and patient populations. We review common obstacles providers face, prognostication tools that may assist in clinical decision making, the ethical support for withholding therapy, and how to factor in potential burdens of treatment. We propose that nurses, whether at the bedside in an acute care or nursing facility or in the home setting as a member of the interdisciplinary home hospice team, are uniquely qualified to help patients and families navigate this challenging clinical decision.
Studies that have explored the wish to hasten death (WTHD) in patients with advanced illness have found that the feeling of being a burden may trigger WTHD. Research suggests that both the feeling and the wish are indicators of multidimensional suffering whose meaning may depend on the patient's biographical background. Therefore, we carried out a systematic review and meta-ethnography. Fourteen qualitative studies, reported in 16 articles, met the inclusion criteria. The analysis identified two themes: the personal and social dimensions that could help to explain the feeling of being a burden in these patients. These dimensions reveal how this feeling is linked to physical, psychological/emotional, existential and social factors. The feeling of being a burden cannot be understood without considering patients' personal interpretation of their dependency or care needs, and hence it is also necessary to understand their biographical background. Such an understanding is crucial to inform clinical policies based on the moral duty to provide all patients with humane care.
During an initial palliative care assessment, a dying man discloses that he had killed several people whilst a young man. The junior doctor, to whom he revealed his story, consulted with senior palliative care colleagues. It was agreed that legal advice would be sought on the issue of breaching the man's confidentiality. Two legal opinions conflicted with each other. A decision was made by the clinical team not to inform the police. In this article the junior doctor, the palliative medicine specialist, a medical ethicist, and a lawyer consider the case from their various perspectives.
CONTEXT: Patients in medical intensive care units (MICUs) are medically complex. This complexity can lead to uncertainty about patient goals and prognosis. Ethical dilemmas arise when there is uncertainty about the clinically and ethically appropriate actions for managing seriously ill patients. Ethics and palliative care involvement may promote improved quality of care and reduced staff moral distress.
Project Description: In this clinical project, a physician with ethics, palliative care, and geriatrics expertise attended morning rounds with the MICU team weekly. Data on the logistics and impact from the first 2 years of the project were collected. Project Logistics and Preliminary Impact: Rounds lasted approximately 1.75 hours per week. The rounder was present for discussion of approximately 200 patients per year and made comments on nearly half of the patients. The comments were categorized as 25% ethics, 40% palliative care, 10% geriatrics, and 25% a combination or other topic. Attending physicians rated the project as helpful. The number of ethics and palliative care consults from the MICU increased in the first 2 years. Downstream impact has included a dietician reviewing Physician Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment forms with teams throughout the hospital and routine review of advance directives of newly admitted patients.
DISCUSSION: Weekly MICU rounding provides an opportunity to briefly teach staff and trainees about relevant ethics, palliative care, and geriatrics issues. It also provides a forum for discussion of ethically challenging cases. Considerations when starting a similar program are discussed.
BACKGROUND: Withdrawal of life support for an individual with refractory schizophrenia after attempted suicide remains controversial. Discussion regarding prognosis of mental illness and the distinction between somatic and mental illness brings out many ethical issues. This article will examine the role and weight of severe persistent mental illness in the withdrawal of life support after attempted suicide.
CASE DESCRIPTION: A 30-year-old gentleman with deafness and schizophrenia was admitted with multiple self-inflicted visceral stab wounds. He developed postoperative complications necessitating ongoing critical care. The parties involved were as follows: the patient, his parents, the critical care trauma service, the palliative and psychiatry consult services, and the ethics committee. Over the patient's hospital course, his parents struggled to reconcile his poor preinjury quality of life with his ongoing need for intensive medical intervention. The primary and consulting teams were required to integrate differing perspectives on the patient's past responsiveness to treatment and the extent to which additional efforts might advance his quality of life and limit his future suffering and suicidality. The patient's surrogate decision makers unanimously requested withdrawal of life support. An ethics committee convened to address the question of whether refractory schizophrenia can produce so poor a quality of life as to merit the withdrawal of life-sustaining measures after a suicide attempt. Consensus was achieved, and life-sustaining measures were subsequently withdrawn, allowing the patient to pass away peacefully in an inpatient hospice facility.
BACKGROUND: The ethics of hastened death are complex. Studies on physicians' opinions about assisted dying (euthanasia or assisted suicide) exist, but changes in physicians' attitudes towards hastened death in clinical decision-making and the background factors explaining this remain unclear. The aim of this study was to explore the changes in these attitudes among Finnish physicians.
METHODS: A questionnaire including hypothetical patient scenarios was sent to 1182 and 1258 Finnish physicians in 1999 and 2015, respectively. Two scenarios of patients with advanced cancer were presented: one requesting an increase in his morphine dose to a potentially lethal level and another suffering a cardiac arrest. Physicians' attitudes towards assisted death, life values and other background factors were queried as well. The response rate was 56%.
RESULTS: The morphine dose was increased by 25% and 34% of the physicians in 1999 and 2015, respectively (p < 0.001). Oncologists approved the increase most infrequently without a significant change between the study years (15% vs. 17%, p = 0.689). Oncological specialty, faith in God, female gender and younger age were independent factors associated with the reluctance to increase the morphine dose. Euthanasia, but not assisted suicide, was considered less reprehensible in 2015 (p = 0.008). In both years, most physicians (84%) withheld cardiopulmonary resuscitation.
CONCLUSION: Finnish physicians accepted the risk of hastening death more often in 2015 than in 1999. The physicians' specialty and many other background factors influenced this acceptance. They also regarded euthanasia as less reprehensible now than they did 16 years ago.
Fetuses at low gestational age limit of viability, neonates with life threatening or life limiting congenital anomalies and deteriorating acutely ill newborn babies in intensive care, pose taxing ethical questions on whether to forego or stop treatment and allow them to die naturally. Although there is essentially no ethical difference between end of life decision between neonates and other children and adults, in the former, the fact that we are dealing with a new life, may pose greater problems to staff and parents. Good communication skills and involvement of all the team and the parents should start from the beginning to see which treatment can be foregone or stopped in the best interests of the child. This article deals with the importance of clinical ethics to avoid legal and moral showdowns and discusses accepted moral practice in this difficult area.
We describe two unusual cases of cardiopulmonary death in mechanically ventilated patients in the neurological intensive care unit. After cardiac arrest, both patients were pulseless for a protracted period. Upon extubation, both developed agonal movements (gasping respiration) resembling life. We discuss these cases and the literature on the ethical and medical controversies associated with determining time of cardiopulmonary death. We conclude that there is rarely a single moment when all of a patient's physiological functions stop working at once. This can pose a challenge for determining the exact moment of death.
Do-not-resuscitate (DNR) orders are typically signed by physicians in conjunction with patients or their surrogate decision makers in order to instruct healthcare providers not to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). Both the medical literature and CPR guidelines fail to address when it is appropriate for physicians to sign DNR orders without any knowledge of a patient's wishes. We explore the ethical issues surrounding instituting a two-physician DNR for a dying patient with multiple comorbidities and no medical record on file, no advance directives, and no surrogate decision maker. Through this case we also highlight the issues of poor prognostication and the reversal of a DNR in such circumstances.
When healthcare professionals feel constrained from acting in a patient's best interests, moral distress ensues. The resulting negative sequelae of burnout, poor retention rates, and ultimately poor patient care are well recognized across healthcare providers. Yet an appreciation of how particular disciplines, including physicians, come to be "constrained" in their actions is still lacking. This paper will examine how the application of shared decision-making may contribute to the experience of moral distress for physicians and why such distress may go under-recognized. Appreciation of these dynamics may assist in cross-discipline sensitivity, enabling more constructive dialogue and collaboration.