Allocation of limited resources in pandemics begs for ethical guidance. The issue of ventilator allocation in pandemics has been reviewed by many medical ethicists, but as localities activate crisis standards of care, and health care workers are infected from patient exposure, the decision to pursue cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) must also be examined to better balance the increased risks to healthcare personnel with the very low resuscitation rates of patients infected with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) . A crisis standard of care that is equitable, transparent, and mindful of both human and physical resources will lessen the impact on society in this era of COVID-19. This paper builds on previous work of ventilator allocation in pandemic crises to propose a literature-based, justice-informed ethical framework for selecting treatment options for CPR. The pandemic affects regions differently over time, so these suggested guidelines may require adaptation to local practice variations.
Facing the possibility of a surge of COVID-19-infected patients requiring ventilatory support in Intensive Care Units (ICU), the Singapore Hospice Council and the Chapter of Palliative Medicine Physicians forward its position on the guiding principles that ought to drive the allocation of ICU beds and its role in care of these patients and their families.
BACKGROUND: Family caregivers of patients on prolonged mechanical ventilation (PMV) may encounter challenges concerning medical decision-making besides witnessing patient suffering. Palliative care (PC) should be a good support for both patients and caregivers; however, for PMV families, PC is not always a choice through long companion time. This qualitative study clarifies family caregivers' burden of assisting patients on PMV and evaluates the need for PC information and support.
METHODS: Interviews were caregivers of patients on ventilator support for more than 60 days in five hospitals of the Taipei City Hospital System. Based on phenomenology, this study was conducted by using a semistructured questionnaire comprising three questions: (I) what was the most crucial moment of deciding to intubate? (II) how would you describe the quality of life of your ventilator-dependent family member? (III) what type of assistance do you expect from the PC team for your ventilator-dependent family member?
RESULTS: Twenty-one caregivers of patients on PMV in five hospitals of the Taipei City Hospital System agreed to participate in face-to-face interviews. The identified themes, including stressful decision-making, companion pain/discomfort, and unwillingness to accept PC, elucidated the difficulties experienced by caregivers when providing care.
CONCLUSIONS: Understanding family caregivers' experiences can enable physicians to improve communication with them, encourage the PC team to support them during surrogate decision-making for patients on PMV during critical moments, and enhance the overall PC service.
OBJECTIVE: During an influenza or COVID-19 pandemic that results in acute respiratory distress, available ventilators will not meet demand. In 2007, the NYS Task Force on Life and the Law and Department of Health released draft Guidelines for ethical allocation of ventilators for adults. In 2015, updated guidelines were released to ensure that: (1) revisions reflect the public's values and (2) the triage protocol is substantiated by evidence-based clinical data. We summarize the development and content of the 2015 Guidelines compared to the 2007 version, emphasizing new/revised aspects of the ethical considerations and clinical protocol.
METHODS: We compared the 2007 and 2015 guidelines, with particular emphasis on the ethical issues and clinical protocols.
RESULTS: The 2015 Guidelines retained much of the ethical and clinical framework of the 2007 draft. The triage protocol was revised using evidence-based clinical data. Patients with the highest likelihood of short-term survival with ventilator therapy have priority access. Protocol consists of exclusion criteria, the sequential organ failure assessment (SOFA) score, and periodic clinical assessments. Guidance is provided on secondary triage criteria. Other forms of medical intervention/palliative care and review of triage decisions are discussed.
CONCLUSIONS: The 2015 Guidelines reflect advances in medicine and societal values and provide an evidenced-based framework to save the most lives. The framework could be adapted in other emergencies, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, that require ventilators.
Background: Chaplain-led communication-board-guided spiritual care may reduce anxiety and stress during an intensive care unit (ICU) admission for nonvocal mechanically ventilated patients, but clinical pastoral education does not teach the assistive communication skills needed to provide communication-board-guided spiritual care.
Objective: To evaluate a four-hour chaplain-led seminar to educate chaplains about ICU patients' psychoemotional distress, and train them in assistive communication skills for providing chaplain-led communication-board-guided spiritual care.
Design: A survey immediately before and after the seminar, and one-year follow-up about use of communication-board-guided spiritual care.
Subjects/Setting: Sixty-two chaplains from four U.S. medical centers.
Measurements: Multiple-choice and 10-point integer scale questions about ICU patients' mental health and communication-board-guided spiritual care best practices.
Results: Chaplain awareness of ICU sedation practices, signs of delirium, and depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder in ICU survivors increased significantly (all p < 0.001). Knowledge about using tagged yes/no questions to communicate with nonvocal patients increased from 38% to 87%, p < 0.001. Self-reported skill and comfort in providing communication-board-guided spiritual care increased from a median (interquartile range) score of 4 (2-6) to 7 (5-8) and 6 (4-8) to 8 (6-9), respectively (both p < 0.001). One year later, 31% of chaplains reported providing communication-board-guided spiritual care in the ICU.
Conclusions: A single chaplain-led seminar taught chaplains about ICU patients' psychoemotional distress, trained chaplains in assistive communication skills with nonvocal patients, and led to the use of communication-board-guided spiritual care in the ICU for up to one year later.
BACKGROUND: During the terminal withdrawal of life-sustaining measures for intensive care patients, the removal of respiratory support remains an ambiguous practice. Globally, perceptions and experiences of best practice vary due to the limited evidence in this area.
AIM: To identify, appraise and synthesise the latest evidence around terminal withdrawal of mechanical ventilation in adult intensive care units specific to perceptions, experiences and practices.
DESIGN: Mixed methods systematic review and narrative synthesis. A review protocol was registered on PROSPERO (CRD42018086495).
DATA SOURCES: Four electronic databases were systematically searched (Medline, Embase, CENTRAL and CINAHL). Obtained articles published between January 2008 and January 2020 were screened for eligibility. All included papers were appraised using relevant appraisal tools.
RESULTS: Twenty-five papers were included in the review. Findings from the included papers were synthesised into four themes: 'clinicians' perceptions and practices'; 'time to death and predictors'; 'analgesia and sedation practices'; 'physiological and psychological impact'.
CONCLUSIONS: Perceptions, experiences and practices of terminal withdrawal of mechanical ventilation vary significantly across the globe. Current knowledge highlights that the time to death after withdrawal of mechanical ventilation is very short. Predictors for shorter duration could be considered by clinicians and guide the choice of pharmacological interventions to address distressing symptoms that patients may experience. Clinicians ought to prepare patients, families and relatives for the withdrawal process and the expected progression and provide them with immediate and long-term support following withdrawal. Further research is needed to improve current evidence and better inform practice guidelines.
Objective: Mechanical ventilation, a measure of life-sustaining treatment (LST), may not be helpful and can be devastating for patients with terminal illness. We explored the effects of demographic characteristics, attitude, subjective norms, and perceived behavioral control on the behavioral intentions of primary caregivers to withdraw LST of long-term ventilator-dependent patients.
Methods: Primary caregivers of ventilator-dependent patients in the respiratory care units of six hospitals participated in the study. A cross-sectional design including the domains of attitude, subjective norms, perceived behavioral control, and behavioral intention was adopted.
Results: Valid data for 99 participants were analyzed using logistic regression. Religious belief, a spousal relationship with the patient, item 5 in subjective norms, and item 5 in perceived behavioral control positively influenced the intention to withdraw patient LST.
Conclusions: Religious beliefs, a spousal relationship, perceived behavioral control (confidence in relieving patient suffering), and the opportunity of current favorable subjective norms are major determinants of the intention to withdraw patients’ LST.
Practice Implications: Shared decision-making with the kin and primary caregivers of long-term ventilator-dependent patients at the end of life is crucial.
Objectives: Little is known about the experience of family caregivers of patients who require prolonged mechanical ventilation (PMV). We examined the perspectives of caregivers of patients who died after PMV to explore the role of palliative care and the quality of dying and death (QODD) in patients and understand the psychological symptoms of these caregivers.
Methods: A longitudinal study was performed in five hospitals in Taipei, Taiwan. Routine palliative care family conferences and optional consultation with a palliative care specialist were provided, and family caregivers were asked to complete surveys.
Results: In total, 136 family caregivers of 136 patients receiving PMV were recruited and underwent face-to-face baseline interviews in 2016–2017. By 2018, 61 (45%) of 136 patients had died. We successfully interviewed 30 caregivers of patients’ death to collect information on the QODD of patients and administer the Impact of Event Scale (IES), Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS) and Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression (CES-D) scale to caregivers. We observed that more frequent palliative care family conferences were associated with poorer QODD in patients (coefficients: -44.04% and 95% CIs -75.65 to -12.44), and more psychological symptoms among caregivers (coefficient: 9.77% and 95% CI 1.63 to 17.90 on CES-D and coefficient: 7.67% and 95% CI 0.78 to 14.55 on HADS). A higher caregiver burden at baseline correlated with lower psychological symptoms (coefficient: -0.35% and 95% CI -0.58 to -0.11 on IES and coefficient: -0.22% and 95% CI -0.40 to -0.05 on CES-D) among caregivers following the patients’ death. Caregivers’ who accepted the concept of palliative care had fewer psychological symptoms after patients’ death (coefficient: -3.29% and 95% CI -6.32 to -0.25 on IES and coefficient: -3.22% and 95% CI -5.24 to -1.20 on CES-D).
Conclusions: Palliative care conferences were more common among family members with increased distress. Higher caregiver burden and caregiver acceptance of palliative care at baseline both predicted lower levels of caregiver distress after death.
Background: Noninvasive ventilation may relieve dyspnea in advanced diseases, but noninvasive ventilation through mouthpiece has not been tested in palliative care.
Aim: To assess the feasibility of mouthpiece ventilation in relieving dyspnea among patients with advanced disease.
Design: In this prospective single-arm pilot study, the change in dyspnea by mouthpiece ventilation was measured with numeric rating scale (0–10) and 100-mm visual analogue scale. Overall, benefit and adverse events of the therapy were also assessed.
Setting/participants: Twenty-two patients with an advanced disease and dyspnea from the Tampere University Hospital or Pirkanmaa Hospice were treated with mouthpiece ventilation. The patients used mouthpiece ventilation as long as they preferred, but for a minimum of 5 min.
Results: After the treatment period lasting a median of 13.5 min, mean decrease in dyspnea was -1.1 (95 % confidence interval = -2.2 to -0.1, p = 0.034) on numeric rating scale and -11.8 mm (95 % confidence interval = -19.9 to -3.7, p = 0.006) on visual analogue scale. Nonetheless, there was a high variability in this effect between individual patients. About half of the patients found mouthpiece ventilation beneficial. No serious adverse events occurred, but dry mouth was the most common adverse event. Anxiety did not increase with mouthpiece ventilation.
Conclusion: Mouthpiece ventilation is feasible and may relieve dyspnea in some patients with an advanced disease. Further studies are needed, and these might concentrate on stable patients in early palliative care. Before initiation, this study was registered at clinicaltrials.gov (study no. NCT03012737).
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.
Background: Patients requiring mechanical ventilation (MV) have high morbidity and mortality. Providing palliative care has been suggested as a way to improve comprehensive management. The objective of this retrospective cross-sectional study was to identify predictors for palliative care utilization and the association with hospital length of stay (LOS) among surgical patients requiring prolonged MV (= 96 consecutive hours).
Methods: National Inpatient Sample (NIS) data 2009–2013 was used to identify adults (age = 18) who had a surgical procedure and required prolonged MV (= 96 consecutive hours), as well as patients who also had a palliative care encounter. Outcomes were palliative care utilization and association with hospital LOS.
Results: Utilization of palliative care among surgical patients with prolonged MV increased yearly, from 5.7% in 2009 to 11.0% in 2013 (p < 0.001). For prolonged MV surgical patients who died, palliative care increased from 15.8% in 2009 to 33.2% in 2013 (p < 0.001). Median hospital LOS for patients with and without palliative care was 16 and 18 days, respectively (p < 0.001). Patients discharged to either short or long term care facilities had a shorter LOS if palliative care was provided (20 vs. 24 days, p < 0.001). Factors associated with palliative care utilization included older age, malignancy, and teaching hospitals. Non-Caucasian race was associated with less palliative care utilization.
Conclusions: Among surgical patients receiving prolonged MV, palliative care utilization is increasing, although it remains low. Palliative care is associated with shorter hospital LOS for patients discharged to short or long term care facilities.
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.
Physicians in the intensive care unit (ICU), in charge of patients with severe acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) due to Coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2), face a difficult dilemma: to improve gas exchange, oxygen transport and tissue oxygenation using mechanical ventilation (MV), or to limit ventilator-induced lung injury (VILI) associated with prolonged MV. In addition, while MV often requires deep sedation with or without neuromuscular blocking agents (NMBA) to tolerate MV and limit the risk of VILI, deep and/or prolonged sedation is associated with several complications, e.g. delirium, withdrawal syndromes, propofol -related infusion syndrome (PRIS), haemodynamic instability, ICU acquired muscle weakness, and difficult MV weaning leading to a sustained utilisation of ICU resources, As the Coronavirus pandemic is associated with a shortage of sedatives and NMBA drugs in several countries including France, it is critical to discuss the role of sedation in this particular context.
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.
Background: The coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic has or threatens to overwhelm health care systems. Many institutions are developing ventilator triage policies.
Objective: To characterize the development of ventilator triage policies and compare policy content.
Design: survey and mixed-methods content analysis.
Setting: North American hospitals associated with members of the Association of Bioethics Program Directors.
Participants: Program directors.
Measurements: Characteristics of institutions and policies, including triage criteria and triage committee membership.
Results: sixty-seven program directors responded (response rate, 91.8%); 36 (53.7%) hospitals did not yet have a policy, and 7 (10.4%) hospitals' policies could not be shared. The 29 institutions providing policies were relatively evenly distributed among the 4 U.S. geographic regions (range, 5 to 9 policies per region). Among the 26 unique policies analyzed, 3 (11.3%) were produced by state health departments. The most frequently cited triage criteria were benefit (25 policies [96.2%]), need (14 [53.8%]), age (13 [50.0%]), conservation of resources (10 [38.5%]), and lottery (9 [34.6%]). Twenty-one (80.8%) policies use scoring systems, and 20 of these (95.2%) use a version of the Sequential Organ Failure Assessment score. Among the policies that specify the triage team's composition (23 [88.5%]), all require or recommend a physician member, 20 (87.0%) a nurse, 16 (69.6%) an ethicist, 8 (34.8%) a chaplain, and 8 (34.8%) a respiratory therapist. Thirteen (50.0% of all policies) require or recommend those making triage decisions not be involved in direct patient care, but only 2 (7.7%) require that their decisions be blinded to ethically irrelevant considerations.
Limitation: the results may not be generalizable to institutions without academic bioethics programs.
Conclusion: Over one half of respondents did not have ventilator triage policies. Policies have substantial heterogeneity, and many omit guidance on fair implementation.
Background: The probability of weaning and of long-term survival of chronically mechanically ventilated cancer patients is unknown, with incomplete information available to guide therapeutic decisions. We sought to determine the probability of weaning and overall survival of cancer patients requiring long-term mechanical ventilation in a specialized weaning unit.
Methods: A single-institution retrospective review of patients requiring mechanical ventilation outside of a critical care setting from 2008 to 2012 and from January 1 to December 31, 2018, was performed. Demographic and clinical data were recorded, including cancer specifics, comorbidities, treatments, and outcomes. Overall survival was determined using the Kaplan-Meier approach. Time to weaning was analyzed using the cumulative incidence function, with death considered a competing risk. Prognostic factors were evaluated for use in prospective evaluations of weaning protocols.
Results: between 2008 and 2012, 122 patients required mechanical ventilation outside of a critical care setting with weaning as a goal of care. The cumulative incidence of weaning after discharge from the intensive care unit was 42% at 21 days, 49% at 30 days, 58% at 60 days, 61% at 90 days, and 61% at 120 days. The median survival was 0.16 years (95% CI, 0.12 to 0.33) for those not weaned and 1.05 years (95% CI, 0.60 to 1.34) for those weaned. Overall survival at 1 year and 2 years was 52 and 32% among those weaned and 16 and 9% among those not weaned. During 2018, 36 patients at our institution required mechanical ventilation outside of a critical care setting, with weaning as a goal of care. Overall, with a median follow-up of 140 days (range, 0–425 days; average, 141 days), 25% of patients requiring long-term mechanical ventilation (9 of 36) are alive.
Conclusions: Cancer patients can be weaned from long-term mechanical ventilation, even after prolonged periods of support. Implementation of a resource-intensive weaning program did not improve rates of successful weaning. No clear time on mechanical ventilation could be identified beyond which weaning was unprecedented. Short-term overall survival for these patients is poor.
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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