Context/Objective: Essential indicators of high-quality end-of-life care in intensive care units (ICUs) have been established but examined inconsistently and predominantly with small samples, mostly from Western countries. Our study goal was to comprehensively measure end-of-life-care quality delivered in ICUs using chart-derived process-based quality measures for a large cohort of critically ill Taiwanese patients.
Methods: For this observational study, patients with APACHE II score =20 or goal of palliative care and with ICU stay exceeding three days ( N = 326) were consecutively recruited and followed until death.
Results: Documentation of process-based indicators for Taiwanese patients dying in ICUs was variable (8.9%–96.3%), but high for physician communication of the patient's poor prognosis to his/her family members (93.0%), providing specialty palliative-care consultations (73.3%), a do-not-resuscitate order in place at death (96.3%), death without cardiopulmonary resuscitation (93.5%), and family presence at patient death (76.1%). Documentation was infrequent for social-worker involvement (8.9%) and interdisciplinary family meetings to discuss goals of care (22.4%). Patients predominantly (79.8%) continued life-sustaining treatments (LSTs) until death and died with full life support, with 88.3% and 58.9% of patients dying with mechanical ventilation support and vasopressors, respectively.
Conclusions: Taiwanese patients dying in ICUs heavily used LSTs until death despite high prevalences of documented prognostic communication, providing specialty palliative-care consultations, having a do-not-resuscitate order in place, and death without cardiopulmonary resuscitation. Family meetings should be actively promoted to facilitate appropriate end-of-life-care decisions to avoid unnecessary suffering from potentially inappropriate LSTs during the last days of life.