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.
PURPOSE: Women who experience out-of-hospital cardiac arrest have similar rates of survival to hospital admission as men; however, women are less likely to survive to hospital discharge. We hypothesized that women would have higher rates of "do not attempt resuscitation" (DNAR) orders and that this order would be associated with lower use of aggressive interventions.
METHODS: We identified adult hospital admissions with a diagnosis of cardiac arrest (ICD-9 427.5) from the 2010 California State Inpatient Dataset. Multivariable logistic regression was used to test the association between patient sex and a DNAR order within the first 24 h of admission, adjusting for patient demographic characteristics and comorbid medical conditions. In secondary analysis, procedures performed after establishment of DNAR order and survival to hospital discharge were compared by sex.
FINDINGS: We analyzed 6562 patients (44% women, 56% men) who experienced out-of-hospital cardiac arrest and survived to hospital admission. In unadjusted analysis, more women than men had establishment of a DNAR order during the first 24 h of admission (23.4% versus 19.3%; P < 0.01). After adjusting for age, race, and comorbid conditions, women remained significantly more likely to have a DNAR order established during the first 24 h of their hospital admission after cardiac arrest compared with men (odds ratio = 1.23; 95% CI, 1.09-1.40). No sex difference was found in procedures used after DNAR order was established.
IMPLICATIONS: Female survivors of cardiac arrest are significantly more likely than men to have a DNAR order established within the first 24 h of in-hospital treatment. The establishment of a DNAR order is associated with patients undergoing fewer procedures than individuals who do not have a DNAR order established. Given that patients who have a DNAR order receive less-aggressive intervention after arrest, it is possible that an early DNAR order may contribute to sex differences in survival to hospital discharge.
'Futility' is a contentious term that has eluded clear definition, with proposed descriptions either too strict or too vague to encompass the many facets of medical care. Requests for futile care are often surrogates for requests of a more existential character, covering the whole range of personal, emotional, cultural and spiritual needs. Physicians and other practitioners can use requests for futile care as a valuable opportunity to connect with their patients at a deeper level than the mere biomedical diagnosis. Current debate around Canada's changing regulatory and legal framework highlights challenges in appropriately balancing the benefits and burdens created by requests for futile care.
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.
The daughter of a man who successfully fought to establish that patients have a right to be consulted on cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) has launched a High Court challenge against Matt Hancock, the health and social care secretary for England.
Kate Masters has written a letter before action to Hancock after news reports suggested that blanket bans on CPR were being imposed during the covid-19 pandemic.
In the letter, she called on Hancock to give an emergency direction to all healthcare professionals providing that “do not attempt cardiopulmonary resuscitation” (DNACPR) orders must not be imposed unless the patient or family have been consulted and certain information provided.
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The global pandemic of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is placing significant strain on health-care resources worldwide Although most patients infected with severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) do not require hospital admission, severe illness commonly leads to acute respiratory distress syndrome necessitating invasive mechanical ventilation. Unfortunately, ventilator scarcity has become a bottleneck in the provision of care to critically ill patients with COVID-19.
Previously-stated DNR status would seem irrelevant to ventilator allocation, and yet some existing and proposed guidelines for triage during a public health emergency list DNR status in the list of criteria for excluding patients from getting ventilators or other life-saving health care. This approach is in direct opposition to the generally agreed-upon goal of maximizing the number of survivors, and could result in confusion and public mistrust of the health care system.
In current debates about allocation of scarce ICU resources, we suggest there is undue optimism about the ‘good’ of intensive care unit (ICU) access. Most critical COVID-19 patients who receive access to a ventilator will still die. The minority who survive will likely leave with significant morbidity and a long and uncertain road to recovery. This reality is obscured in the current bioethics literature on ICU triage in which scarcity and value are conflated.
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The current outbreak of SARS-CoV-2 has and continues to put huge pressure on intensive care units (ICUs) worldwide. Many patients with COVID-19 require some form of respiratory support and often have prolonged ICU stays, which results in a critical shortage of ICU beds. It is therefore not always physically possible to treat all the patients who require intensive care, raising major ethical dilemmas related to which patients should benefit from the limited resources and which should not. Here we consider some of the approaches to the acute shortages seen during this and other epidemics, including some guidelines for triaging ICU admissions and treatments.
Objectives: To map current practice regarding discussions around resuscitation across England and Scotland in patients with cancer admitted acutely to hospital and to demonstrate the value of medical students in rapidly collecting national audit data.
Methods: Collaborators from the Macmillan medical student network collected data from 251 patient encounters across eight hospitals in England and Scotland. Data were collected to identify whether discussion regarding resuscitation was documented as having taken place during inpatient admission to acute oncology. As an audit standard, it was expected that all patients should be invited to discuss resuscitation within 24 hr of admission.
Results: Resuscitation discussions were had in 43.1% of admissions and of these 64.0% were within 24 hr; 27.6% of all admissions. 6.5% of patients had a “do not attempt resuscitation” order prior to admission with a difference noted between patients receiving palliative and curative treatment (8.5% and 0.39%, respectively, p < .05). Discussions regarding escalation of care took place in only 29.3% of admissions.
Conclusions: These data highlight deficiencies in the number of discussions regarding resuscitation that are being conducted with cancer patients that become acutely unwell. It also demonstrates the value of medical student collaboration in rapidly collecting national audit data.
Cardiopulmonary resuscitation of a patient with an uncertain resuscitation status, and a discharging implantable cardiac defibrillator, presents a significant ethical challenge to healthcare professionals in the emergency department. Presently, no literature discusses these challenges or their implications for ethical healthcare delivery. This report will discuss the issues that arose during the management of such a case and attempt to raise awareness among healthcare professionals to ensure better preparation for similar situations.
The first case of novel coronavirus disease of 2019 (COVID-19) caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome–coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) was reported in November 2019. The rapid progression to a global pandemic of COVID-19 has had profound medical, social, and economic consequences. Pregnant women and newborns represent a vulnerable population. However, the precise impact of this novel virus on the fetus and neonate remains uncertain. Appropriate protection of health care workers and newly born infants during and after delivery by a COVID-19 mother is essential. There is some disagreement among expert organizations on an optimal approach based on resource availability, surge volume, and potential risk of transmission. The manuscript outlines the precautions and steps to be taken before, during, and after resuscitation of a newborn born to a COVID-19 mother, including three optional variations of current standards involving shared-decision making with parents for perinatal management, resuscitation of the newborn, disposition, nutrition, and postdischarge care. The availability of resources may also drive the application of these guidelines. More evidence and research are needed to assess the risk of vertical and horizontal transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and its impact on fetal and neonatal outcomes.
Purpose: Advance care planning is an important component of quality palliative care. In Asian countries, few randomized clinical trials have been reported. This pilot randomized-controlled trial examined the effects of brief nurse intervention with visual materials on the goal-of-care preference, cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) preference, and designation of a health care proxy.
Methods: This randomized clinical trial was performed from January to February 2018 on elderly Japanese patients with chronic disease. The patients were randomly assigned to a control group (brief nurse intervention using verbal descriptions) or intervention group (using visual materials). The primary endpoint was goal-of-care preference, and secondary outcomes included the following: (1) CPR preference, (2) presence of a designated health care proxy, (3) knowledge of CPR, and (4) readiness for advance care planning. Outcome measures were obtained at baseline and just after completion of the intervention.
Results: A total of 220 patients were enrolled (117 in the intervention group and 103 in the control group). All patients completed post-intervention measurement. There was no significant difference between the groups in any of the outcome measures, while <5% of the participants wanted life-prolonging care as the goal of care at the baseline. Before/after comparisons indicated that, in both groups, the number of participants who designated a health care proxy significantly increased (29% to 65% vs. 22% to 52%, respectively; p < 0.001 each); and the knowledge and readiness scores significantly increased. Moreover, there was a significant increase in the number of patients who did not want CPR (55% to 67% with a terminal condition, p = 0.003; 67% to 80% with a bedridden condition, p < 0.001) in the intervention group.
Conclusions: Brief nurse intervention increased documentation of a patient-designated health care proxy and improved the knowledge of CPR and patient readiness. Visual materials might help patients to imagine the actual situation regarding CPR.
Dr. Wakam: I’m 5 hours into my ICU shift at a community hospital in Detroit when the results of another arterial blood gas return. My patient has been hospitalized for 3 days and is Covid-19–positive. Over the past 12 hours, his treatment has progressed from intubation, to prone positioning on 100% fractional inspired oxygen, to medically induced paralysis, and finally to bilevel ventilation. The results from the arterial blood gas are dismal: pH 7.19, pCO2 70.1, pO2 63.7, HCO3 26.0. He has already experienced episodes of profound hypoxia when we try to rotate him into a supine position, and his heart has begun to show signs of strain, with periods of atrial fibrillation with rapid ventricular response and nonsustained runs of ventricular tachycardia. A request to transfer the patient for extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) is denied. It’s 11 p.m., and I’m worried that my patient won’t survive until morning.
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As the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic intensifies, shortages of ventilators have occurred in Italy and are likely imminent in parts of the US. In ordinary clinical circumstances, all patients in need of
mechanical ventilation because of potentially-reversible conditions receive it, unless they or their surrogates decline. However, there are mounting concerns in many countries that this will not be possible and that patients
who otherwise would likely survive if they received ventilator support will die because no ventilator is available. In this type of public health emergency, the ethical obligation of physicians to prioritize the well-being of individual
patients may be overridden by public health policies that prioritize doing the greatest good for the greatest number of patients.These circumstances raise a critical question: when demand for ventilators and other intensive
treatments far outstrips the supply, what criteria should guide these rationing decisions?
The Covid-19 pandemic has led to severe shortages of many essential goods and services, from hand sanitizers and N-95 masks to ICU beds and ventilators. Although rationing is not unprecedented, never before has the American public been faced with the prospect of having to ration medical goods and services on this scale.
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OBJECTIVE: There is a lack of information about patients' attitudes towards and knowledge of resuscitation and advance care planning (ACP) in the palliative care unit (PCU). The aims of this study were to examine (a) patients' attitudes towards and knowledge of the topic of resuscitation, (b) patients' level of education about their illness and (c) their concept of ACP.
METHODS: This study used a qualitative methodology that involved semi-structured interviews with advanced cancer patients admitted to the PCU. Interviews were conducted during the first week after admission, recorded digitally and transcribed verbatim. Data were analysed through content analysis using NVivo 12.
RESULTS: Eighteen interviews revealed the following themes: (a) ambivalence regarding preference for or refusal of resuscitation, (b) patient confidence concerning their level of education, (c) lack of information about ACP and (d) positive perception of the stay in the PCU. The data showed that a high percentage of PCU patients desired resuscitation even though education about their illness was mostly perceived as good. Many patients did not receive information about ACP. Patients perceived the stay in the PCU positively.
CONCLUSION: The study results reveal that there is lack of knowledge about ACP and resuscitation in patients in the PCU.
OBJECTIVE: Irish legislation on Advance Healthcare Directives (Assisted Decision Making Capacity Act 2015, ADMC) proposes to change the basis of decision making from acting in the patient's best interests to following the expressed will and intentions of the patient. Refusal of life-saving care can occur, without sound reasons. The implications for care in life-threatening emergencies have not been explored among clinicians.
DESIGN: An anonymous questionnaire survey of Advanced Paramedics (AP) covering awareness of the legislation, attitudes to and experience of refusal of care and potential actions in emergency scenarios now and if the legislation were in force. The scenarios covered end-of-life and deliberate self-harm situations potentially requiring resuscitation.
SETTING: All 482 graduates of the Advanced Paramedic Training Programme were invited to take part.
RESULTS: Overall, 85/389 (21.9%) valid contacts responded, with demographic characteristics similar to the overall population. Attitudes ranged from highly positive to highly negative in relation to the potential impact of the legislation on professional and operational responsibilities. Respondents described marked changes in whether they would offer resuscitation if the ADMC were in place.
CONCLUSION: Irish legislation which changes the traditional basis of medical practice away from the best interests of the patient may affect the resuscitation practices of Advanced Paramedics in life-threatening situations. It has significant implications for medical education, professional practice and clinician-patient interactions. This legislation and similar planned legislation may have implications for other EU jurisdictions.