BACKGROUND: Little is known about the attitudes and practices of intensivists working in Lebanon regarding withholding and withdrawing life-sustaining treatments (LSTs). The objectives of the study were to assess the points of view and practices of intensivists in Lebanon along with the opinions of medical, legal and religious leaders regarding withholding withdrawal of life-sustaining treatments in Lebanese intensive care units (ICU).
METHODS: A web-based survey was conducted among intensivists working in Lebanese adult ICUs. Interviews were also done with Lebanese medical, legal and religious leaders.
RESULTS: Of the 229 survey recipients, 83 intensivists completed it, i.e. a response rate of (36.3%). Most respondents were between 30 and 49 years old (72%), Catholic Christians (60%), anesthesiologists (63%), working in Beirut (47%). Ninety-two percent of them were familiar with the withholding and withdrawal concepts and 80% applied them. Poor prognosis of the acute and chronic disease and futile therapy were the main reasons to consider withholding and withdrawal of treatments. Ninety-five percent of intensivists agreed with the "Principle of Double Effect" (i.e. adding analgesia and or sedation to patients after the withholding/withdrawal decisions in order to prevent their suffering and allow their comfort, even though it might hasten the dying process). The main withheld therapies were vasopressors, respiratory assistance and CPR. Most of the respondents reported the decision was often to always multidisciplinary (92%), involving the family (68%), and the patient (65%), or his advance directives (77%) or his surrogate (81%) and the nurses (78%). The interviewees agreed there was a law governing withholding and withdrawal decisions/practices in Lebanon. Christians and Muslim Sunni leaders declared accepting those practices (withholding or withdrawing LSTs from patients when appropriate).
CONCLUSION: Withholding and withdrawal of LSTs in the ICU are known concepts among intensivists working in Lebanon and are being practiced. Our results could be used to inform and optimize therapeutic limitation in ICUs in the country.
BACKGROUND: At the end of patients' lives, physicians sometimes provide medication with the explicit intention to hasten death. Physicians' assessment of such acts varies. We studied which characteristics are associated with physicians' classification of these acts.
METHODS: This study concerns a secondary analysis of a nationwide study on the practice of medical decision-making at the end of life. In 2015, attending physicians of a sample of deceased people (n=9,351) received a questionnaire about end-of-life care and decision-making. The response rate was 78%. We studied 851 cases in which physicians reported that the patient had died as a result of medication they had provided with the explicit intention to hasten death. Chi-square tests and logistic regression analyses were performed.
RESULTS: If medication had been provided with the explicit intention to hasten death at the explicit request of the patient, physicians considered "euthanasia", "assisted suicide" or "ending of life" the most appropriate term for their course of action in 82% of all cases, while 17% of physicians chose the term "palliative or terminal sedation". Physicians' classification of their act as "euthanasia", "assisted suicide" or "ending of life" was less likely when patients had a short (1-7 days) or very short (max. 24 hours) life expectancy. Furthermore, such classification was less likely when their act had involved the use of other medication than muscle relaxants. The limited number of cases in which patients had been provided with medication without an explicit patient request were never classified as "euthanasia", "assisted suicide" or "ending of life".
CONCLUSIONS: Physicians rarely classify the provision of medication with the explicit intention of hastening death as "euthanasia", "assisted suicide" or "ending of life" when patients are in the dying phase and when they provide other medication than muscle relaxants. In these cases, acts are mostly classified as "palliative or terminal sedation". This suggests that the legal distinction between euthanasia and palliative care may not always be clear in clinical practice.
Background: Critical care physicians often have to make challenging decisions to withhold/withdraw life-sustaining treatments. As a result of society's increasingly cultural diversity such decision making often involves patients from ethnic minority groups, which might pose extra challenges.
Objective: To investigate withholding/withdrawing life-sustaining treatments with patients from ethnic minority groups and their families during critical care.
Design: Ethnographic fieldwork (observations, in-depth interviews and reading patients' medical files).
Setting/Subjects: Eighteen patients from ethnic minority groups, their relatives, physicians and nurses were studied in one intensive care unit of a multi-ethnic urban hospital (Belgium).
Results: During decision making physicians had a very central role. The contribution of patients and nurses was limited, while families' input was more noticeable. Decision making was hampered by communication difficulties between: (1) staff and relative(s), (2) relatives, and (3) patient and relative(s). Different approaches were used by physicians to overcome difficulties, which often reflected their tendency to control decision making, for example, stressing their central role. At times their approaches reflected their inability to align families' wishes with their own, for example, when making decisions without explicitly informing relatives.
Conclusions: Withholding/withdrawing life-sustaining treatments in a multi-ethnic critic care context has a number of alarming difficulties, such as how to take families' input correctly into account. It is important that decision making happens in a cultural sensitive way and with involvement tailored to patients' and relatives' needs and in close consultation with interprofessional health care workers/other services.
Critical care clinicians strive to reverse the disease process and are frequently faced with difficult end-of-life (EoL) situations, which include transitions from curative to palliative care, avoidance of disproportionate care, withholding or withdrawing therapy, responding to advance treatment directives, as well as requests for assistance in dying. This article presents a summary of the most common issues encountered by intensivists caring for patients around the end of their life. Topics explored are the practices around limitations of life-sustaining treatment, with specific mention to the thorny subject of assisted dying and euthanasia, as well as the difficulties encountered regarding the adoption of advance care directives in clinical practice and the importance of integrating palliative care in the everyday practice of critical-care physicians. The aim of this article is to enhance understanding around the complexity of EoL decisions, highlight the intricate cultural, religious, and social dimensions around death and dying, and identify areas of potential improvement for individual practice.
Background: This study examined the experience of withholding or withdrawing life-sustaining treatment in patients hospitalized in the intensive care units (ICUs) of a tertiary care center. It also considers the role that intensivists play in the decision-making process regarding the withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment.
Methods: We retrospectively analyzed the medical records of 227 patients who decided to withhold or withdraw life-sustaining treatment while hospitalized at Ewha Womans University Medical Center Mokdong between April 9 and December 31, 2018.
Results: The 227 hospitalized patients included in the analysis withheld or withdrew from life-sustaining treatment. The department in which life-sustaining treatment was withheld or withdrawn most frequently was oncology (26.4%). Among these patients, the most common diagnosis was gastrointestinal tract cancer (29.1%). A majority of patients (64.3%) chose not to receive any life-sustaining treatment. Of the 80 patients in the ICU, intensivists participated in the decision to withhold or withdraw life-sustaining treatment in 34 cases. There were higher proportions of treatment withdrawal and ICU-to-ward transfers among the cases in whom intensivists participated in decision making compared to those cases in whom intensivists did not participate (55.9% vs. 4.3% and 52.9% vs. 19.6%, respectively).
Conclusion: Through their participation in end-of-life discussions, intensivists can help patients' families to make decisions about withholding or withdrawing life-sustaining treatment and possibly avoiding futile treatments for these patients.
The COVID-19 pandemic has raised a host of ethical challenges, but key among these has been the possibility that health care systems might need to ration scarce critical care resources. Rationing policies for pandemics differ by institution, health system, and applicable law. Most seem to agree that a patient's ability to benefit from treatment and to survive are first-order considerations. However, there is debate about what clinical measures should be used to make that determination and about other factors that might be ethically appropriate to consider. In this paper, we discuss resource allocation and several related ethical challenges to the healthcare system and society, including how to define benefit, how to handle informed consent, the special needs of pediatric patients, how to engage communities in these difficult decisions, and how to mitigate concerns of discrimination and the effects of structural inequities.
Objectif : Cette étude vise à développer des axes de réflexion concernant la fin de vie et ainsi mieux comprendre les facteurs éthique et émotionnel en jeu dans la prise de décision chez le médecin travaillant en soins palliatifs et plus particulièrement dans une situation où il est question d’une limitation et/ou arrêt de traitement (LAT).
Méthode: La réflexion éthique et le vécu émotionnel de 10 médecins, exerçant en services ou en équipes mobiles de soins palliatifs dans la région Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, ont été évalués par auto-questionnaire.
Résultats: Dans un contexte de prise de décision de LAT, les médecins ont estimé que la réflexion éthique a un impact sur leur prise de décision dans leur pratique professionnelle en général mais également dans leur dernière situation de LAT. Les résultats diffèrent concernant le vécu émotionnel, 80 % des médecins ont pensé que le vécu émotionnel jouait un rôle dans leur pratique professionnelle générale. En revanche, 70 % des médecins considèrent que leur vécu émotionnel n’a pas influencé la prise de décision lorsqu’ils sont interrogés plus spécifiquement sur la dernière situation clinique où il était question d’une LAT.
Conclusion : Les médecins considèrent que la réflexion éthique est bien présente et semble indispensable pour garder, au centre de la décision, le patient dans son unicité. Au vu des résultats, la prise de décision de LAT semble faire ressentir des émotions fortes à ces médecins qui paraissent difficilement identifiables et exprimables.
While in Western European countries, the end-of-life decisions have become a matter of public policy, this paper provides a detailed analysis of end-of-life decisions in Albania by focusing on instructional medical directives. The manuscript investigates the Albanian legal system, the documents published by the National Ethics Committee and the National Committee of Health, as the two main advisory public bodies on health issues, as well as the national medical jurisprudence and the Code of Medical Ethics. After emphasizing the importance of instructional medical directives and considering the international literature that has underlined the ethical principle of patient autonomy, this paper provides some policy suggestions. In the conclusion, this contribution highlights the importance of ad hoc rules governing instructional medical directives as well as the ethical principles and international literature as an instrument to fill the gap in the national system. In addition, particular attention is given to the application of ethical principles in end-of-life decisions in the current pandemic situation.
AIM: To better understand the participation of nursing staff in end-of-life nutrition and hydration decision-making in an American nursing home.
DESIGN: A qualitative exploration with ethnographic focus.
METHODS: In April 2017, in-person, semi-structured interviews were performed with 19 nursing staff members in a nursing home located in the south-eastern United States. Additional information was gathered through participant observation during interviews and review of organizational and regulatory policies. Transcripts were coded and analysed using qualitative methods described by Roper and Shapira (2000).
RESULTS: Three primary themes relating to nursing staff participation in end-of-life nutrition and hydration decision-making were identified: (a) Formal decision-making: decisions made and implemented by persons with the authority to make legal and binding care decisions in the nursing home setting; (b) Informal decision-making: decisions not requiring medical orders; and (c) Influential factors: factors that influence actions of nursing staff.
CONCLUSION: A variety of factors have an impact on nursing staff participation in end-of-life nutrition and hydration decision-making. Participation is closely aligned with the type of decision, whether formal or informal, and role, whether Certified Nursing Assistant/Aide, Licensed Practical/Vocational Nurse, or Registered Nurse.
IMPACT: End-of-life nutrition and hydration decision-making in nursing homes differs from decision-making in other care settings and presents a challenge globally. Interventions that support the participation of nursing staff in end-of-life nutrition and hydration decision-making have the potential to positively impact the experiences of residents and family members faced with these issues in the nursing home setting.
INTRODUCTION: Caring for terminally ill children influences nurses' and allied health provider's quality of life, ability to provide personalized, dignified and empathetic care and even their concepts of personhood. In the absence of data this review utilizes the Ring Theory of Personhood (RToP) to evaluate how a physician's concept of personhood is affected caring for terminally ill children in order to better support them holistically.
METHODS: Using PRISMA Guidelines, 14 researchers carried out independent searches of PubMed, CINAHL, PsycINFO, Cochrane Library and gray literature databases for articles published between 2000 to 2019. Concurrent and independent employment of content and thematic analysis (Split Approach) was used to enhance the trustworthiness of the analysis.
RESULTS: 13,424 titles and abstracts were retrieved, 188 full texts were evaluated, and 39 articles were included and analyzed. Identical categories and themes identified using the Split Approach suggest that caring for dying children in PPC impacts the physician's professional identity, clinical decision making, personal well-being and relationships. The data also suggests that the magnitude of these effects depends on the presence of protective and risk factors.
CONCLUSION: Aside from providing a novel insight into the upon the physician, this review proffers a unique approach to accounting for the presence, magnitude and influence of incoming catalysts, resultant conflicts, and protective and risk factors upon the physician's personhood. Further studies into the changes in personhood are required. Design of a personalized assessment tool based on the RToP will help direct timely, appropriate and personalized support to these physicians.
BACKGROUND: Palliative and end-of-life care development is hindered by a lack of information about the circumstances surrounding dying in developing and resource-poor countries. Our aims were to develop and obtain face and content validity for a self-administered questionnaire on end-of-life care provision and medical decision-making for use in population-based surveys.
METHODS: Modelled on validated questionnaires from research in developed countries, our questionnaire was adapted to the cultural sensitivity and medico-legal context of Trinidad and Tobago. Two sets of semi-structured face-to-face cognitive interviews were done with a sample of physicians, sampling was purposive. Phase 1 assessed interpretation of the questions, terminology and content of the questionnaire. Phase 2 was tested on a heterogeneous group of physicians to identify and fix problematic questions or recurring issues. Adjustments were made incrementally and re-tested in successive interviews.
RESULTS: Eighteen physicians were interviewed nationwide. Adaptations to questionnaires used in developed countries included: addition of a definition of palliative care, change of sensitive words like expedited to influenced, adjustments to question formulations, follow-up questions and answer options on medications used were added, the sequence, title and layout were changed and instructions for completion were included at the beginning of the questionnaire.
CONCLUSION: A new instrument for assessing and documenting end-of-life care and circumstances of dying in a small, resource-poor Caribbean country was developed and validated, and can be readily used as a mortality follow-back instrument. Our methods and procedures of development can be applied as a guide for similar studies in other small developing countries.
La pratique de prélèvement d’organe selon la procédure dite Maastricht III (MIII) est l’objet de discussions et de controverses éthiques. Au premier plan de ces craintes, est celle de la dérive utilitariste privilégiant une éthique sociétale à une éthique individuelle. On peut proposer néanmoins un certain nombre de garde-fous éthiques discutés dans cet article et dont les principaux sont les suivants : le MIII ne doit pas être la solution unique face à la pénurie de greffons. Les décisions de limitation et arrêt thérapeutique doivent être strictement appliquées dans le cadre de la loi Claeys Leonetti sans interférence avec l’équipe de prélèvement ; un consentement explicite est la garantie du respect de la volonté du donneur ; les procédures de sédation accompagnant l’arrêt des traitements de support vitaux doivent être identiques qu’il y ait ou non de prélèvement MIII.
Peu d’analyses des premiers résultats ont été publiées sur la procédure de don d’organes dite Maastricht 3 (M3), mise en place en 2014 en France. Pourtant, cette procédure est soumise à un conflit d’intérêt intérieur pour le médecin qui devra éclaircir son désir d’être utile aux autres par le biais de la promotion du don d’organes sans que cela n’influence sa décision d’arrêt des traitements de l’éventuel patient donneur. Ceci, alors même que les moyens d’établir un pronostic sont souvent limités. Toute modification des pratiques liées à la fin de vie au cours de l’instauration de la procédure M3 – telles la politique d’admission des patients en réanimation, l’administration de la sédation ou encore la procédure de séparation du ventilateur – peut témoigner d’une volonté de maximisation de l’utilité à court terme de cette procédure. Le consentement des proches peut lui aussi se retrouver biaisé par une forte désirabilité sociale ou par un sentiment de culpabilité, et une évaluation sereine ne sera pas réalisée du fait de la rapidité de la procédure. L’éclairage des tensions philosophiques entre les pensées conséquentialistes et déontologiques, l’importance d’un débat dans chaque structure, une indication très restrictive aux patients anoxiques les plus graves, un contrôle a posteriori indépendant, font partie des solutions proposées dans cet article pour réduire ces problèmes. Alors que la « pénurie » actuelle liée au don d’organes pourrait être résolue par un meilleur taux d’acceptabilité de prélèvements de patients en état de mort encéphalique, se pose finalement la question d’un dépassement irrémédiable des limites éthiques qui garantissent le sens premier de l’engagement des professionnels auprès de leurs patients.
During the novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, it is particularly critical to ensure that life-sustaining treatment (LST) such as intubation and resource-intensive cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) are aligned with a patient’s goals and values, and to avoid LSTs in patients with a poor prognosis that are unlikely to be beneficial, but have a high risk of causing additional suffering. The high volume and acuity of COVID-19 patients makes it extremely challenging for emergency department (ED) clinicians to take adequate time to clarify goals of care (GOC). We implemented an ED-based COVID-19 palliative care response team focused on providing high-quality GOC conversations in time-critical situations. We examined the clinical characteristics and outcomes of patients who received this intervention.
Methods: This retrospective observational study was conducted in the ED of an urban, quaternary care academic medical center in New York, New York. We included 110 patients for whom the palliative care team was consulted between March 27, 2020, and April 10, 2020, with follow-up through May 9, 2020. Columbia University institutional review board approved this study and waived the need for informed consent.
Emergency department clinicians consulted the palliative care team for assistance with any palliative care-related needs, including GOC clarification and cases where stated GOC did not align with expected prognosis. The palliative care team (1 attending physician who was board-certified in hospice and palliative medicine, 1 hospice/palliative medicine fellow clinician, and 4 psychiatry resident physicians and fellow clinicians, all trained in GOC conversations and supervised by the palliative care attending physician) was available in person 12 hours per day, and for phone consultation overnight and on weekends. The palliative care intervention focused on GOC conversations: conveying the prognosis in a clear and simple way, exploring patients’ goals and values, and making care recommendations based on elicited goals.1,2
Deidentified demographic data were collected from the medical record. Primary outcomes included GOC before and after palliative care intervention, as well as GOC on death or discharge. Secondary outcomes included clinical course and length of stay in the hospital
Goals of care were defined as “full code” (pursue all LSTs including intubation and CPR); “do-not-resuscitate (DNR) only” (pursue all LSTs excluding CPR); “DNR/do-not-intubate (DNI), continue medical treatment” (pursue all LSTs excluding intubation and CPR); and “comfort-directed care” (forgo LSTs, deliver symptom-focused treatment only). The GOC were presumed to be full code if no advance directives or medical orders for life-sustaining treatment (MOLST) were found on presentation to the ED.
Six patients were still hospitalized at the time of data review; they were excluded from the analysis for clinical course.
Results: The 110 patients were aged a median (range) of 81.5 (46-101) years and 61 (55.4%) were women. Patient demographic and clinical characteristics are reported in Table 1. Most patients were community-dwelling elderly persons (aged >75 years) with at least 2 comorbidities and lacked decision-making capacity at the time of presentation. Very few patients presented with documented advance directives or MOLST and therefore were presumed to be full code.
The primary outcomes are summarized in Table 2. After initial palliative care intervention, the number of full code decreased from 91 patients (82.7%) to 20 patients (18.2%). Among these 71 patients (64.5%) in whom CPR was declined, mechanical ventilation was also declined in 61 patients (55.5%) (ie, 32 patients in DNR/DNI, continue medical treatment, 29 patients in comfort-directed care). On discharge, the number of full code further decreased to 9 patients (8.6%), whereas comfort-directed care increased to 54 patients (51.9%). The median (range) length of stay was 4 (0-28) days and 71 patients (68.2%) died in the hospital. Among 33 patients (31.7%) who were discharged alive, 6 patients (5.8%) were discharged with hospice care.
Discussion: The included patients’ demographic characteristics were consistent with those of critically ill patients with COVID-19 previously reported and with those of patients reported to be at highest risk of death from COVID-19. Patients without advance care planning conversations are known to be at risk of receiving unwanted, high-intensity, lower-quality care,5 even though many seriously ill patients do not prefer LSTs at the end of life.6
The most important finding in this study was, after palliative care intervention in the ED, most patients and their surrogates opted to forgo mechanical ventilation and/or CPR, and that tendency further increased on discharge. We believe timely GOC conversations by the palliative care team helped avoid unwanted LSTs for patients with a poor prognosis. Study limitations include potentially limited generalizability given the retrospective design at a single institution. Also, palliative care consultation was initiated by ED clinicians, which may have led to selection bias, though a high rate of altered GOC after intervention suggests significant, unaddressed need in the outlying population.
Background: The Scottish Government’s vision for older people is that ‘Older people are valued as an asset; their voices are heard and they are supported to enjoy full and positive lives.’ In the health and social care setting in Scotland it is increasingly recognised that there is a need for careful planning of care for older patients with complex comorbidities, and that this should involve the patient where possible via a process of shared decision making (SDM).
Aim: To establish what future planning for healthcare decision making and end-of-life care was undertaken in the care of the older patients in a secondary care facility, and how much they participate in this process.
Method: An audit was conducted across four wards in the care of the older patient setting in a hospital for older patients in Scotland. Over a 2-week period, all patients’ charts (n = 82) were reviewed, and evidence was examined on whether the following documents were in place: a do not resuscitate order; an escalation of medical care plan; and an assessment of capacity/incapacity.
Results: The majority of patients (55%) had a resuscitation plan in place. An Incapacity Statement was also in place for the majority of patients who required it (90%). The escalation of medical care plan was only completed for a minority of patients, mainly those on the palliative care ward.
Conclusion: Plans for decision making around resuscitation were reasonably well developed. However, planning for other, more complex, future medical care needs was less well defined or explored with older patients.
The devastating pandemic that has stricken the worldwide population induced an unprecedented influx of patients in ICUs, raising ethical concerns not only surrounding triage and withdrawal of life support decisions, but also regarding family visits and quality of end-of-life support. These ingredients are liable to shake up our ethical principles, sharpen our ethical dilemmas, and lead to situations of major caregiver sufferings. Proposals have been made to rationalize triage policies in conjunction with ethical justifications. However, whatever the angle of approach, imbalance between utilitarian and individual ethics leads to unsolvable discomforts that caregivers will need to overcome. With this in mind, we aimed to point out some critical ethical choices with which ICU caregivers have been confronted during the Covid-19 pandemic and to underline their limits. The formalized strategies integrating the relevant tools of ethical reflection were disseminated without deviating from usual practices, leaving to intensivists the ultimate choice of decision.
Background: Fibrotic interstitial lung disease is an incurable disease with poor prognosis. We aimed to understand factors affecting decisions regarding referrals to specialist palliative care services and to address barriers and facilitators to referrals from healthcare professionals’ perspectives.
Methods: A survey study of healthcare professionals, including respiratory physicians, interstitial lung disease nurse specialists, respiratory nurse specialists and palliative care physicians, was conducted using a questionnaire, entailing 17 questions.
Results: Thirty-six respondents, including 15 interstitial lung disease nurse specialists completed the questionnaire. Symptom control, psychological/spiritual support, general deterioration and end-of-life care were the most common reasons for referrals to specialist palliative care services. Most respondents felt confident in addressing palliative care needs and discussing palliative care with patients. A few participants emphasised that experienced respiratory nurse specialists are well placed to provide symptom management and to ensure continuity of patient care. Participants reported that access to palliative care could be improved by increasing collaborative work between respiratory and palliative care teams.
Conclusions: Most respondents felt that enhancing access to specialist palliative care services would benefit patients. However, palliative care and respiratory care should not be considered as mutually exclusive and multidisciplinary approach is recommended.
Purpose: An important role of the rapid response system (RRS) is to provide opportunities for end-of-life care (EOLC) decisions to be appropriately operationalized. We investigated whether EOLC decisions were made after the RRS-recommended EOLC decision to the primary physician.
Materials and Methods: We studied whether patients made EOLC decisions consistent with the rapid response team’s (RRT) recommendations, between January 1, 2017, and February 28, 2019. The primary outcome was the EOLC decision after the RRT’s recommendation to the primary physician. The secondary outcome was the mechanism of EOLC decision-making: through institutional do-not-resuscitate forms or the Korean legal forms of Life-Sustaining Treatment Plan (LSTP).
Results: Korean LSTPs were used in 26 of the 58 patients who selected EOLC, from among the 75 patients for whom the RRS made an EOLC recommendation. Approximately 7.2% of EOLC decisions for inpatients were related to the RRT’s interventions in EOLC decisions. Patients who made EOLC decisions did not receive cardiopulmonary resuscitation, mechanical ventilation, or dialysis.
Conclusion: The timely intervention of the RRS in EOLC facilitates an objective assessment of the patient’s medical conditions, the limitation of treatments that may be minimally beneficial to the patient, and the choice of a higher quality of care. The EOLC decision using the legal process defined in the relevant Korean Act has advantages, wherein patients can clarify their preference, the family can prioritize the patient’s preference for EOLC decisions, and physicians can make transparent EOLC decisions based on medical evidence and informed patient consent.
Background: Decisions of withholding or withdrawing life sustaining-treatments in emergency department are part of current practice but the decision-making process remains poorly described in the literature.
Study objective: We conducted a study in two phases, the first comprising a retrospective chart review study of patients dying in the ED and the second comprising survey study of health care workers at 10 urban emergency departments in France.
Method: In a first step, we analyzed medical records based on fifteen criteria of the decision-making process grouped into four categories: the collegiality, the traceability, the management and the communication as recommended by the international guidelines. In a second step, we conducted an auto-administrated survey to assess how the staff members (medical, paramedical) feel with the decision-making process.
Results: There were 273 deaths which occurred in the ED over the study period and we included 145 (53.1%) patients. The first-step analysis revealed that the traceability of the decision and the information given to patient or the relatives were the most reported points according to the recommendations. Three of the ten emergency departments had developed a written procedure. The collegial discussion and the traceability of the prognosis assessment were significantly increased in emergency department with a written procedure as well as management of pain, comfort care, and the communication with the patient or the relatives. In the second-step analysis, among the 735 staff members asked to take part in the survey, 287 (39.0%) answered. The medical and paramedical staff expressed difficult experience regarding the announcement and the communication with the patient and the relatives.
Conclusion: The management of the decision to withhold or withdraw life-sustaining treatments must be improved in emergency departments according to the guidelines. A standard written procedure could be useful in clinical practice despite the lack of experienced difference between centers with and without procedures.