BACKGROUND: The COVID-19 pandemic has aggressively reached the most vulnerable, not only the elderly but also patients with chronic conditions such as cancer. In this study, we present the outlines of ethical thinking and the measures implemented to try to respect our basic values of care, in the specific environment of an oncology hospital.
METHODS: Our ethics committee created an ethical watch system based on 24/7 shifts to assist practitioners in their daily decisions. We discuss the challenges faced by patients with cancer during the pandemic, such as access to critical care and ethical dilemmas in the context of resource scarcity, as well as the issue of isolation of patients. We also debate the restrictions in access to oncology care in a health context strongly 'prioritised' against COVID-19.
RESULTS: In all areas of an ethical dilemma, either for sorting out access to critical care or for the dramatic consequences of prolonged isolation of patients, our common thread was our attempt to protect, whenever possible, the principles of deontological ethics by strictly resisting utilitarian pressure. Respecting democratic health decision-making processes is a cornerstone of ethically relevant decisions, including in the context of a sanitary crisis.
CONCLUSION: The role of an ethics committee related to real-life situations includes not only a reflexive perspective in respect of fundamental principles, but also the help to enlighten and resolve ethical dilemmas in complex clinical situations. This ethical watch team assists physicians in decision-making, promoting the supportive and palliative dimension of care with a holistic approach.
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.
Background: To characterize patients dying in a community hospital with or without attempting cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and to describe patient involvement in, documentation of, and compliance with decisions on resuscitation (Do-not-attempt-to-resuscitate orders; DNAR).
Methods: ll patients who died in Kalmar County Hospital during January 1, 2016 until December 31, 2016 were included. All information from the patients’ electronic chart was analysed.
Results: Of 660 patients (mean age 77.7 ± 12.1 years; range 21–101; median 79; 321 (48.6%) female), 30 (4.5%) were pronounced dead in the emergency department after out-of-hospital CPR. Of the remaining 630 patients a DNAR order had been documented in 558 patients (88.6%). Seventy had no DNAR order and 2 an explicit order to do CPR. In 43 of these 70 patients CPR was unsuccessfully attempted while the remaining 27 patients died without attempting CPR. In 2 of 558 (0.36%) patients CPR was attempted despite a DNAR order in place. In 412 patients (73.8%) the DNAR order had not been discussed with neither patient nor family/friends. Moreover, in 75 cases (13.4%) neither patient nor family/friends were even informed about the decision on code status.
Conclusions: In general, a large percentage of patients in our study had a DNAR order in place (88.6%). However, 27 patients (4.3%) died without CPR attempt or DNAR order. DNAR orders had not been discussed with the patient/surrogate in almost three fourths of the patients. Further work has to be done to elucidate the barriers to discussions of CPR decisions with the patient.
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.
Les infirmiers peuvent apporter une aide à la décision dans les situations d’urgence lors d’un choc septique, notamment si le malade n’a pas rédigé de directives anticipées et/ou désigné une personne de confiance. Ils peuvent entreprendre ou faciliter la collégialité des décisions nécessaires sur le plan juridique et éthique. Les habitus d’une équipe à la réflexion éthique et au recueil de données initial sont les garants du respect de la parole du patient.
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.
Objective: The aim of this study was to examine the effectiveness and efficiency of interprofessional case conferences on home-based end-of-life care to bridge perceptions gaps regarding ethical dilemmas among different healthcare professionals and analyze essential issues extracted the interprofessional discussions.
Patients and Methods: The participants could spend only a limited amount of time after their working hours. Therefore, we shortened and simplified each of three case scenarios so that the discussions do not last longer than 90 minutes. For the case conferences, we selected 3 cases, which entailed the following ethical dilemmas pertaining to home-based end-of-life care: refusal of hospital admission, passive euthanasia, and emergency transport. Participant responses were audio-recorded, transcribed, and analyzed using qualitative content analysis and Jonsen's four topics approach.
Results: A total of 136 healthcare professionals (11 physicians, 35 nurses, and 90 care workers) participated in the case conferences. The physicians, nurses, and care workers differed in their perceptions of and attitudes toward each case, but there were no interprofessional conflicts. Despite the short duration of each case conference (90 minutes), the participants were able to discuss a wide range of medical ethical issues that were related to the provision of appropriate home-based end-of-life care to older adults. These issues included discrimination against older adults (ageism), self-determination, an unmet desire for caregiver-patient communication, insufficient end-of-life care skills and education, healthcare costs, and legal issues.
Conclusion: The physicians, nurses, and care workers differed in their perceptions of and attitudes toward each case, but there were no interprofessional conflicts.
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.
OBJECTIVES: This is the second of a 2-part article that discusses essential case management practices and strategies amidst the novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). The series showcases the potential professional case managers have in support of managing during a crisis such as a global pandemic. Part II continues to describe reenvisioned roles and responsibilities of case managers and their leaders to meet the needs of patients/support systems during the crisis. It focuses on the increased need for end-of-life care, impact on workers' compensation case management practice, and the self-care needs of the professional case manager.
PRIMARY PRACTICE SETTINGS: Applicable to the various case management practice settings across the continuum of health and human services, with special focus on acute care.
FINDINGS/CONCLUSIONS: The COVID-19 global pandemic has resulted in a crisis case managers and other health care professionals never faced something like it before. At the same time, it has provided opportunities for innovation and creativity including use of digital and telecommunication technology in new ways to ensure the continued delivery of health and human services to those who need them regardless of location. It has also resulted in the development of necessary and impactful partnerships within and across different health care organizations and diverse professional disciplines. Most importantly, this pandemic has required special attention to the increased need of patients for timely palliative and end-of-life care. In addition, it has prompted a focus on the safety, health, and well-being of case managers and other health care professionals, resulting in expanded workers' compensation case management practice coupled with the need for self-care and resilience.
IMPLICATIONS FOR CASE MANAGEMENT PRACTICE: Professional case managers are integral members of interprofessional health care teams. Their roles and responsibilities are even more necessary during the uncertainty of a global pandemic such as COVID-19. So far, the experience of this crisis has resulted in a deliberate need to ensure the safety of both, those who are the recipients of health care services and those who are responsible for the provision of care. Self-care and resilience of health care professionals and case managers, especially due to the complex dynamics of the COVID-19 pandemic, have advanced a desirable and necessary view of remote/virtual practice and as a strategy for enhancing the person's health and well-being. This pandemic has forced the development of impactful partnerships and collaborations among the diverse contexts of health care organizations and support service providers. These contexts of care delivery have also emphasized the necessary legal and ethical practice of case managers and the other involved parties. Experts agree that the innovative care delivery methods practiced during the pandemic will undoubtedly remain as desirable beyond the current crisis period.
Key ethical challenges for healthcare workers arising from the COVID-19 pandemic are identified: isolation and social distancing, duty of care and fair access to treatment. The paper argues for a relational approach to ethics which includes solidarity, relational autonomy, duty, equity, trust and reciprocity as core values. The needs of the poor and socially disadvantaged are highlighted. Relational autonomy and solidarity are explored in relation to isolation and social distancing. Reciprocity is discussed with reference to healthcare workers' duty of care and its limits. Priority setting and access to treatment raise ethical issues of utility and equity. Difficult ethical dilemmas around triage, do not resuscitate decisions, and withholding and withdrawing treatment are discussed in the light of recently published guidelines. The paper concludes with the hope for a wider discussion of relational ethics and a glimpse of a future after the pandemic has subsided.
Cette réédition totalement revue et enrichie contribue à une appropriation des évolutions législatives portées par la loi du 2 février 2016 créant de nouveaux droits en faveur des malades et des personnes en fin de vie (droits de la personne, sédation profonde et continue, souffrance, directives anticipées opposables, etc.). Les conditions du mourir interrogent à la fois nos obligations sociales et les exigences du soin. Alors que s'instaurent une nouvelle culture de la fin de vie, de nouvelles solidarités, quelles seront les incidences sur les pratiques professionnelles au service de la personne malade et de ses proches ? Ces situations toujours singulières, irréductibles aux débats généraux portant sur "la mort dans la dignité" justifient une exigence de clarification, la restitution d’expériences et la transmission de savoirs vrais.
Dans une approche pluridisciplinaire, cet ouvrage associe les meilleures compétences pour proposer une synthèse rigoureuse et complète des réflexions et des expériences au cœur des débats les plus délicats de notre société. Il constitue une indispensable référence à destination des professionnels mais tout autant d'un large public, la concertation nationale sur la fin de vie ayant fait apparaître un important besoin d'informations dans ces domaines à la fois intimes et publics.
In the United States and other nations, palliative care is under-resourced and there are not enough specialists to consistently meet the needs of patients suffering from serious illness. Nonetheless, palliative care is an integral component of care in the intensive care unit (ICU), as the ICU is designed for patients with life-threatening illnesses. In general, palliative care needs are best met through a combination of specialty and primary palliative care and the ideal approach depends on setting and context. Palliative care needs have been magnified by the COVID-19 pandemic with the hospitalization of hundreds of thousands of patients with COVID-19, many requiring critical care. Furthermore, hospitals are required to limit family presence, further complicating our ability to address patients' palliative care needs.
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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.
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.
D'un projet de formation, nous avons abouti à la création d'un outil pédagogique interactif de simulation de situations cliniques, le jeu "Kipal". Nous avons découvert que notre création était une méthode d'enseignement ludopédagogique. Mais au-delà d'un simple partage de connaissances, ce jeu a montré l'avantage inattendu d'un fort potentiel d'interdisciplinarité.
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.
Purpose of Review: Although the utilization of mechanical circulatory support (MCS) devices is increasing, ethical dilemmas regarding device deactivation and dying process persist, potentially complicating delivery of optimal and compassionate care at end-of-life (EOL). This review aims to study EOL challenges, left ventricular assist devices (LVADs) as a nuanced life support treatment, legal history in the US impacting EOL care, and suggestions to improve EOL care for patients on MCS support.
Recent Findings: Recent studies have demonstrated challenging aspects of EOL care for patients on LVAD support: low use of advanced directives, high rates of surrogate decision-making due to lack of patient capacity, difficult decision-making involving LVAD deactivation even with cooperating patients, and high rates of death in the hospital and ICU settings. Recent studies also suggest lack of consensus even among clinicians in approaching LVAD deactivation as beliefs equating LVAD deactivation with physician-assisted suicide and/or euthanasia remain. Optimal care at EOL will likely require collaborative efforts among multiple specialties, caregivers, and patients.
Summary: In light of the complex medical, logistical, and ethical challenges in EOL care for LVAD patients, there is room for improvement by multidisciplinary efforts to reach consensus about LVAD deactivation and best practices for EOL care, development and implementation of LVAD-specific advance planning, and protocols for LVAD deactivation. Programmatic involvement of hospice and palliative care in the continuum of care of LVAD patients has the potential to increase and improve advance care planning, support surrogate decision-making, improve EOL compassionate care, and to support caregivers.
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.
There is a called-for shift to an upstream provision of palliative care as an overall care approach within a health equity perspective. Our research explored how nurses in psychiatry engage with aging patients and mortality to discern enactment of ethical dimensions of care. Drawing from tenets of interpretative phenomenological analysis, forensic and geriatric psychiatry registered nurses working at a mental health facility in eastern Ontario completed interviews for analysis. Nurses engaged with mortality through a process of recognition and through the affirmation of their values. The affirmed values are aligned with the palliative care approach and within an ethics of finitude lens in that their enactment is partly premised on the recognition of patients’ accumulated losses related to human facticities (social, temporal, mortal). This research underscores preliminary insights on a process identifying care practices aligned with the palliative approach and possibilities for expanding upon an ethics of finitude lens.
Background: Data are scarce on the withdrawal of life-sustaining therapies and limitation of care orders (LCOs) during physician-staffed Helicopter Emergency Medical Service (HEMS) missions. We investigated LCOs and the quality of information available when physicians made treatment decisions in prehospital care.
Methods: A prospective, nationwide, multicentre study including all Finnish physician-staffed HEMS bases during a six-month study period. All HEMS missions where a patient had pre-existing LCOs and/or a new LCO were included.
Results: There were 335 missions with LCOs, which represented 5.7% of all HEMS missions (n=5,895). There were 181 missions with pre-existing LCOs, and a total of 170 new LCOs were issued. Usually, the pre-existing LCO was a do not attempt cardiopulmonary resuscitation order only (n=133, 74%). The most frequent new LCO was ‘termination of cardiopulmonary resuscitation’ only (n=61, 36%), while ‘no intensive care’ combined with some other LCO was almost as common (n=54, 32%). When issuing a new LCO for patients who did not have any preceding LCOs (n=153), in every other (49%) case the physicians thought that the patient should have already had an LCO. When the physician made treatment decisions, patients’ background information from on-scene paramedics was available in 260 (78%) of the LCO missions, while patients’ medical records were available in 67 (20%) of the missions.
Conclusion: Making LCOs or treating patients with pre-existing LCOs is an integral part of HEMS physicians’ work, with every twentieth mission involving LCO patients. The new LCOs mostly concerned withholding or withdrawal of cardiopulmonary resuscitation and intensive care.