A patient with a life-threatening intracranial insult presents a difficult situation to the neurosurgeon. In a few short minutes the neurosurgeon must assess the patient's neurologic status, imaging, and medical condition then confer with the patient's proxy regarding treatment. This assessment ideally includes recognition of situations where aggressive care is futile and therefore such treatments should not be offered. The proxy discussion must involve surgical and nonsurgical management options and the impact of these options on survival and residual disability. Surgical decision-making is frequently difficult, even for designated proxies armed with advance directives, as these documents are usually vague with regard to acceptable functional outcomes. To complicate things further, when emergencies are off-hours, housestaff or physician extenders may need to represent the medical team in these discussions so that surgical treatment, if desired, can be arranged expeditiously. These difficulties sometimes lead to the performance of emergent surgical procedures in situations where poor outcome is certain, with deleterious effects to the patient, family, and healthcare system. It is clear then that neurosurgeons as well as their housestaff and extenders should have working knowledge of prognostic information relating to intracranial insults and familiarity with the complex ethical concept of medical futility. In this paper we review the relevant literature and our goal is to juxtapose these topics so as to provide a framework for decision making in that critical time.
'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.
When it is ethically justifiable to stop medical treatment? For many Muslim patients, families, and clinicians this ethical question remains a challenging one as Islamic ethico-legal guidance on such matters remains scattered and difficult to interpret.
In light of this gap, we conducted a systematic literature review to aggregate rulings from Islamic jurists and juridical councils on whether, and when, it is permitted to withdraw and/or withhold life-sustaining care. A total of 16 fatwas were found, 8 of which were single-author rulings, and 8 represented the collective view of a juridical council. The fatwas are similar in that nearly all judge that Islamic law, provided certain conditions are met, permits abstaining from life-sustaining treatment. Notably, the justifying conditions appear to rely on physician assessment of the clinical prognosis. The fatwas differ when it comes to what conditions justify withdrawing or withholding life- sustaining care. Our analyses suggest that while notions of futility greatly impact the bioethical discourse regarding with holding and/or withdrawal of treatment, the conceptualization of futility lacks nuance. Therefore, clinicians, Islamic jurists, and bioethicists need to come together in order to unify a conception of medical futility and relate it to the ethics of withholding and/or withdrawal of treatment.
Background: Age and massive transfusion are predictors of mortality after trauma. We hypothesized that increasing age and high-volume transfusion would result in progressively elevated mortality rates and that a transfusion “ceiling” would define futility.
Methods: The Trauma Quality Improvement Program (TQIP) database was queried for 2013-2016 records and our level I trauma registry was reviewed from 2013 to 2018. Demographic, mortality, and blood transfusion data were collected. Patients were grouped by decade of life and by packed red blood cell (pRBC) transfusion requirement (zero units, 1-3 units, or =4 units) within 4 h of admission.
Results: TQIP analysis demonstrated an in-hospital mortality risk that increased linearly with age, to an odds ratio of 10.1 in =80 y old ( P < 0.01). Mortality rates were significantly higher in older adults ( P < 0.01) and those with more pRBCs transfused. In massively transfused patients, the transfusion “ceiling” was dependent on age. Owing to the lack granularity in the TQIP database, 230 patients from our institution who received =4 units of pRBCs within 4 h of admission were reviewed. On arrival, younger patients had significantly higher heart rates and more severe derangements in lactate levels, base deficits, and pH compared with older patients. There were no differences among age groups in injury severity score, systolic blood pressure, or mortality.
Conclusions: In massively transfused patients, mortality increased with age. However, a significant proportion of older adults were successfully resuscitated. Therefore, age alone should not be considered a contraindication to high-volume transfusion. Traditional physiologic and laboratory criteria indicative of hemorrhagic shock may have reduced reliability with increasing age, and thus providers must have a heightened suspicion for hemorrhage in the elderly. Early transfusion requirements can be combined with age to establish prognosis to define futility to help counsel families regarding mortality after traumatic injury.
Futility denotes failure to achieve the projected outcome. We investigated the prevalence, predictors, and clinical risk model of transcatheter aortic valve implantation (TAVI)-related futility. We included 464 consecutive patients undergoing TAVI from 2010 to 2017. Futility was defined as death and/or hospitalization for heart failure (HFH) within 1 year after TAVI. Of 464 patients (mean age: 84.4 years), 69% were females (EuroSCOREII: 6.3%; Society of Thoracic Surgeons [STS] score: 6.9%). Forty-six patients (9.9%) experienced TAVI-related futility, and 36 of 46 patients (69.6%) died within 1 year due to cardiac (37.5%) and non-cardiac (62.5%) causes. Previous HFH (hazard ratio [HR], 2.20; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.13–4.35, p = 0.020), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) (HR, 3.39; 95% CI: 1.12–8.42, p = 0.033), and moderate/severe mitral or tricuspid regurgitation (HR, 2.98; 95% CI: 1.32–6.27, p = 0.010) were independent predictors of futility. With 1 point assigned to each predictor (total 0 point, futility low-risk; total 1 point, futility intermediate-risk; total 2–3 points, futility high-risk), the futility risk model clearly stratified individual futility risk into three groups (the freedom from futility at 1 year: 96.2%, 82.1%, and 67.9% each). Our futility risk model presented better discrimination than EuroSCOREII, and STS score (c-statistic: 0.73 vs. 0.68 vs. 0.67). Medical futility was recognized in 9.9% of patients undergoing TAVI. Previous HFH, COPD, and concomitant atrioventricular regurgitation were associated with futility. The risk model derived from three predictors showed good performance in predicting futility risk.
A challenge in end-of-life care is requests by patients or their substitute decision-makers for treatment that doctors consider is "futile" or "non-beneficial". Concerns that these concepts are uncertain and subjective have led to calls for medical policies to clarify terminology and to provide procedural solutions to prevent and address disputes. This article provides a comprehensive analysis of how Australian medical guidelines and policies on withholding or withdrawing potentially life-sustaining treatment address futility. It demonstrates that while the concept is found throughout medical policies and guidelines, the terminology employed is inconsistent. There is also variability in the extent of guidance given about unilateral decision-making and mechanisms for dispute resolution. This is problematic, given that the question of further treatment can often only be determined in relation to the individual patient's goals and values. We conclude by advocating for the development of a unified policy approach to futile or non-beneficial treatment in Australia.
Futility in medicine has been defined as excessive medical intervention with very little prospect of altering the clinical outcome in a positive manner. If treatments fail to release our patients from the preoccupation with the illness and do not allow them to pursue their life goals, then perhaps that treatment is futile.
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: Futile care in the neuroscience intensive care unit (NSICU) can create moral distress for clinicians who may differ in their interpretation of the value of such care. We sought to compare the perception of provision of futile care in the NSICU among physicians, advanced practice providers, and intensive care unit registered nurses (ICURNs).
METHODS: This is a cross-sectional study of 77 patients. A standardized questionnaire was used to ask clinicians whether care being provided to NSICU patients admitted for more than 48 hours was futile and whether they would want that treatment for their loved one. Demographics, diagnosis, and reason for treatment futility were collected. Futility was analyzed independently and in an aggregate manner (yes/probable combined and no/probable combined).
RESULTS: The sample median age was 61 (SD, 17.179) years, men comprised 53% of the sample, and 68% were white. Collectively, there were 77 futile responses (33%), 136 nonfutile (59%), and 18 probable futile (8%). Physicians and nurse practitioners deemed futility in 36% of patients; ICURNs, in 27% (P < .05). Age, race, or diagnosis did not impact futility perception. The treatment was acceptable for a loved one in 53% of cases for physicians, 43% for advanced practice providers, and 48% for ICURNs (P < .05). Interobserver agreement for futility was 0.469 (CK), and pairwise agreement was 71%. Interobserver agreement for treatment acceptable for a loved one was 0.568 (CK), and pairwise agreement was 78%.
CONCLUSIONS: Clinicians consider NSICU care futile in one-third of patients, but correlation among them is moderate; no specific variable is associated with such perception.
PURPOSE: To provide guidance on the management of patients with neovascular age-related macular degeneration and its subtypes who respond poorly to anti-vascular endothelial growth factor (anti-VEGF) therapy, and to identify cases where suspending anti-VEGF treatment may be warranted.
METHODS: Through a literature review and the combined knowledge and clinical experience of retinal experts, the Steering Committee of the Bayer-sponsored Vision Academy developed an algorithm for determining when to suspend anti-VEGF treatment of neovascular age-related macular degeneration in cases of futility.
RESULTS: Consideration of factors that may cause suboptimal response to anti-VEGF therapy, such as undertreatment or misdiagnosis of the underlying condition, and factors that may preclude continued treatment, such as injection- or drug-induced complications, is necessary for adjusting treatment protocols in patients who respond poorly to anti-VEGF. If poor response to treatment persists after switching to an alternative anti-VEGF agent and no change in response is observed after withholding treatment for a predetermined period of time ("treatment pause"), anti-VEGF treatment may be considered futile and should be suspended.
CONCLUSION: This publication introduces an algorithm to guide the management of neovascular age-related macular degeneration in patients showing poor response to anti-VEGF treatment and provides expert guidance for suspending anti-VEGF treatment in cases of futility.
The aim of this article is to explore the concept of medical futility and the withdrawal of care for children in intensive care units. There have been several recent cases where medical staff have considered that there was no possibility of recovery for a child, yet their clinical judgments were challenged by the parents. The private anguish of these families became public, social media heightened emotions and this was followed by political and religious intrusion. Innovations in medical treatment and technological advances raise issues for all those involved in the care of children and young people especially when decisions need to be made about end of life care. Healthcare professionals have a moral and legal obligation to determine when treatment should cease in cases where it is determined to be futile. The aim should be to work collaboratively with parents but all decisions must be made in the best interests of the child. However, medical staff and parents may have differing opinions about care decisions. In part, this may be as a result of their unique relationships with the child and different understanding of the extent to which the child is in discomfort or can endure pain.
"On s'était pourtant mis d'accord avec les enfants : pas d'acharnement". L''acharnement, un sujet on ne peut plus brûlant d'actualité médicale et sociétale.
Dans un service de réanimation où se mêlent technicité, souffrance, guérison, vulnérabilité, espoir et fin de vie, moi infirmière, ne peux plus me défausser face à cette famille qui par ces mots s'exclut, choque, dérange et déstabilise mon équipe.
En cours de formation continue de Soins Palliatifs et d'Accompagnement, il me faut y aller, me risquer, à la rencontre de ces parents qui ne demandent qu'à exister, être entendus, accompagnés.
Qu'a développé en moi, soignante, ce DIU si singulier pour me sentir prête à tenir une présence, tout entendre, et remettre en question ma pratique, mes positions dans des situations toujours plus complexes, humaines et éthiques telles que celles-ci ?
Les concepts d'altérité, transdisciplinarité et pratique réflexive vont m'aider à y répondre...
OBJECTIVES: Patients with indicators for palliative care, such as those with advanced life-limiting conditions, are at risk of futile cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) if they suffer out-of-hospital cardiac arrest (OHCA). Patients at risk of futile CPR could benefit from anticipatory care planning (ACP); however, the proportion of OHCA patients with indicators for palliative care is unknown. This study quantifies the extent of palliative care indicators and risk of CPR futility in OHCA patients.
METHODS: A retrospective medical record review was performed on all OHCA patients presenting to an emergency department (ED) in Edinburgh, Scotland in 2015. The risk of CPR futility was stratified using the Supportive and Palliative Care Indicators Tool. Patients with 0-2 indicators had a 'low risk' of futile CPR; 3-4 indicators had an 'intermediate risk'; 5+ indicators had a 'high risk'.
RESULTS: Of the 283 OHCA patients, 12.4% (35) had a high risk of futile CPR, while 16.3% (46) had an intermediate risk and 71.4% (202) had a low risk. 84.0% (68) of intermediate-to-high risk patients were pronounced dead in the ED or ED step-down ward; only 2.5% (2) of these patients survived to discharge.
CONCLUSIONS: Up to 30% of OHCA patients are being subjected to advanced resuscitation despite having at least three indicators for palliative care. More than 80% of patients with an intermediate-to-high risk of CPR futility are dying soon after conveyance to hospital, suggesting that ACP can benefit some OHCA patients. This study recommends optimising emergency treatment planning to help reduce inappropriate CPR attempts.
The Spanish Society of Intensive and Critical Care Medicine and Coronary Units (SEMICYUC) Bioethics Working Group has developed recommendations on the Limitation of Advanced Life Support Treatment (LLST) decisions, with the aim of reducing variability in clinical practice and of improving end of life care in critically ill patients. The conceptual framework of LLST and futility are explained. Recommendations referred to new forms of LLST encompassing also the adequacy of other treatments and diagnostic methods are developed. In addition, planning of the possible clinical courses following the decision of LLST is commented. The importance of advanced care planning in decision-making is emphasized, and intensive care oriented towards organ donation at end of life in the critically ill patient is described. The integration of palliative care in the critical patient treatment is promoted in end of life stages in the Intensive Care Unit.
Background: The high burden of disease-oriented drugs among older adults with limited life expectancy raises important questions about the potential futility of care.
Aim: To describe the use of drugs of questionable clinical benefit during the last 3 months of life of older adults who died from life-limiting conditions.
Design: Longitudinal, retrospective cohort study of decedents. Death certificate data were linked to administrative and healthcare registries with national coverage in Sweden.
Setting: Older adults (=75 years) who died from conditions potentially amenable to palliative care between 1 January and 31 December 2015 in Sweden. We identified drugs of questionable clinical benefit from a set of consensus-based criteria.
Results: A total of 58,415 decedents were included (mean age, 87.0 years). During their last 3 months of life, they received on average 8.9 different drugs. Overall, 32.0% of older adults continued and 14.0% initiated at least one drug of questionable clinical benefit (e.g. statins, calcium supplements, vitamin D, bisphosphonates, antidementia drugs). These proportions were highest among younger individuals (i.e. aged 75–84 years), among people who died from organ failure and among those with a large number of coexisting chronic conditions. Excluding people who died from acute and potentially unpredictable fatal events had little influence on the results.
Conclusion: A substantial share of older persons with life-limiting diseases receive drugs of questionable clinical benefit during their last months of life. Adequate training, guidance and resources are needed to rationalize and deprescribe drug treatments for older adults near the end of life.
Introduction: The perceptions of medical futility and decisions about termination of resuscitation (TOR) for out-of-hospital cardiac arrest (OHCA) are highly heterogeneous and dependent on the practice of the attending emergency physicians. The objective of this study was to report and investigate the knowledge, attitudes, and practices regarding medical futility and TOR during management of OHCA in Hong Kong.
Methods: A cross-sectional survey was conducted among emergency medicine physicians in Hong Kong. The questionnaire assessed participants’ background, knowledge, attitudes, and behaviours concerning medical futility and TOR in management of OHCA. Composite scores were calculated to reflect knowledge, attitudes, and practices of OHCA treatment. Subgroup analysis and multiple regression analysis were used to explore the relationship between participants’ background, knowledge, attitudes, and behaviours.
Results: The response rate to this survey was 57% (140/247). Independent predictors of less aggressive resuscitation in OHCA patients included status as a Fellow of the Hong Kong College of Emergency Medicine (ß= -0.314, P=0.028) and being an Advanced Cardiac Life Support instructor (ß= -0.217, P=0.032). There was no difference in aggressiveness of resuscitation in terms of years of clinical experience (ß=0.015, P=0.921), knowledge of TOR (ß=0.057, P=0.509), or attitudes about TOR (ß= -0.103, P=0.214). The correlation between knowledge and attitudes was low (Spearman’s coefficient=0.02, P=0.795).
Conclusion: Clinical practice and behaviour of TOR was not demonstrated to have associations with knowledge or attitude. Status as a Fellow of the Hong Kong College of Emergency Medicine or Advanced Cardiac Life Support instructor were the only two parameters identified that had significant relationships with earlier TOR in medically futile patients with OHCA.
This article argues that while the presence and influence of "futility" as a concept in medical decision-making has declined over the past decade, medicine is seeing the rise of a new concept with similar features: suffering. Like futility, suffering may appear to have a consistent meaning, but in actuality, the concept is colloquially invoked to refer to very different experiences. Like "futility," claims of patient "suffering" have been used (perhaps sometimes consciously, but most often unconsciously) to smuggle value judgments about quality of life into decision-making. And like "futility," it would behoove us to recognize the need for new, clearer terminology. This article will focus specifically on secondhand claims of patient suffering in pediatrics, but the conclusions could be similarly applied to medical decisions for adults being made by surrogate decision-makers. While I will argue that suffering, like futility, is not sufficient wholesale justification for making unilateral treatment decisions, I will also argue that claims of patient suffering cannot be ignored, and that they almost always deserve some kind of response. In the final section, I offer practical suggestions for how to respond to claims of patient suffering.
OBJECTIVE: To increase knowledge of how doctors perceive futile treatments and scarcity of resources at the end of life. In particular, their perceptions about whether and how resource limitations influence end-of-life decision making. This study builds on previous work that found some doctors include resource limitations in their understanding of the concept of futility.
SETTING: Three tertiary hospitals in metropolitan Brisbane, Australia.
DESIGN: Qualitative study using in-depth, semistructured, face-to-face interviews. Ninety-six doctors were interviewed in 11 medical specialties. Transcripts of the interviews were analysed using thematic analysis.
RESULTS: Doctors' perceptions of whether resource limitations were relevant to their practice varied, and doctors were more comfortable with explicit rather than implicit rationing. Several doctors incorporated resource limitations into their definition of futility. For some, availability of resources was one factor of many in assessing futility, secondary to patient considerations, but a few doctors indicated that the concept of futility concealed rationing. Doctors experienced moral distress due to the resource implications of providing futile treatment and the lack of administrative supports for bedside rationing.
CONCLUSIONS: Doctors' ability to distinguish between futility and rationing would be enhanced through regulatory support for explicit rationing and strategies to support doctors' role in rationing at the bedside. Medical policies should address the distinction between resource limitations and futility to promote legitimacy in end-of-life decision making.
La loi Leonetti du 22 avril 2005 a posé un cadre législatif définissant l’obstination déraisonnable, que l’on nommait précédemment l’acharnement thérapeutique. La décision de ce qui est raisonnable ou non dans la mise en place ou la poursuite de traitements soit curatifs soit de maintien artificiel de la vie renvoie à une question éthique sur la fin de vie. C’est en interrogeant cette éthique de fin de vie que l’aide-soignante peut parvenir à vivre au mieux toute décision médicale en lien avec une problématique d’obstination déraisonnable.
Background: Futile or potentially inappropriate care (futile/PIC) for dying inpatients leads to negative outcomes for patients and clinicians. In the setting of rising end-of-life health care costs and increasing physician burnout, it is important to understand the causes of futile/PIC, how it impacts on care and relates to burnout.
Objectives: Examine causes of futile/PIC, determine whether clinicians report compensatory or avoidant behaviors as a result of such care and assess whether these behaviors are associated with burnout.
Design: Online, cross-sectional questionnaire.
Setting/Subjects: Clinicians at two academic hospitals in New York City.
Methods: Respondents were asked the frequency with which they observed or provided futile/PIC and whether they demonstrated compensatory or avoidant behaviors as a result. A validated screen was used to assess burnout.
Measurements: Descriptive statistics, odds ratios, linear regressions.
Results: Surveys were completed by 349 subjects. A majority of clinicians (91.3%) felt they had provided or “possibly” provided futile/PIC in the past six months. The most frequent reason cited for PIC (61.0%) was the insistence of the patient's family. Both witnessing and providing PIC were statistically significantly (p < 0.05) associated with compensatory and avoidant behaviors, but more strongly associated with avoidant behaviors. Provision of PIC increased the likelihood of avoiding the patient's loved ones by a factor of 2.40 (1.82–3.19), avoiding the patient by a factor of 1.83 (1.32–2.55), and avoiding colleagues by a factor of 2.56 (1.57–4.20) (all p < 0.001). Avoiding the patient's loved ones (ß = 0.55, SE = 0.12, p < 0.001), avoiding the patient (ß = 0.38, SE = 0.17; p = 0.03), and avoiding colleagues (ß = 0.78, SE = 0.28; p = 0.01) were significantly associated with burnout.
Conclusions: Futile/PIC, provided or observed, is associated with avoidance of patients, families, and colleagues and those behaviors are associated with burnout.