PURPOSE: The purpose of this study was to explore the perceptions of critical care nurses regarding the withdrawal or withholding of enteral nutrition (EN) and parenteral nutrition (PN) at the end-of-life, which is not allowed according to the current law in South Korea.
METHODS: This was a cross-sectional study utilizing a self-report survey. The participants in the study were 141 nurses working in the intensive care units of a tertiary university hospital. The critical care nurses' general attitudes about EN and PN at the end-of-life were measured using the questionnaires developed by Lubart, Leibovitz, and Habot. The nurses responded to additional questions on whether withdrawal or withholding of EN or PN at the end-of-life should be legally allowed.
RESULTS: The mean scores of the general attitude items on EN ranged between 3.03 and 3.35 on a 5-point Likert scale where a value of 1 represents "strongly disagree" and a value of 5 represents "strongly agree," while those for PN ranged between 2.89 and 3.65. Respecting attitudes toward EN and PN, critical care nurses had more negative attitudes about stopping PN than EN. Regarding attitudes about whether patients should be legally able to refuse EN, 34.3% agreed, while 25.7% disagreed. For PN, 40.0% agreed, while 24.3% disagreed.
CONCLUSION: Discussions about making the withdrawal and withholding of artificial nutrition legal should be initiated. Moreover, education regarding evidence about the outcomes of EN and PN during end-of-life care and up-to-date clinical guidelines about it should be provided.