AIM: The purpose of the present study was to collate examples of end-of-life care guidelines from various counties, examine their contents, and gain an overall picture of how end-of-life care guidance is offered to physicians and care providers internationally.
METHODS: In this study, eight researchers worked independently to source and examine national-level end-of-life care guidelines from different countries and regions. Data collected by each researcher were gathered into a unified table. The items in the table included basic information (publisher, year, URL etc.) and more specific items, such as the presence/absence of legal information and family's role in decision-making. These data were then used to identify trends, and examine the mechanics and delivery of guidance on this topic.
RESULTS: A total of 54 guidelines were included in the study. All the guidelines were published between 2000 and 2016, and 60% (n = 33) were published after 2012. The length of the guidelines varied from two to 487 pages (median 38 pages), and had different target audiences - both lay and professional. A total of 38 (70%) of the guidelines included information about the relevant laws and legal issues, 47 (87%) offered advice on withholding and withdrawing treatment, 46 (85%) discussed the family's role in decision-making and 46 (85%) emphasized the teamwork aspect of care.
CONCLUSIONS: The present findings show that end-of-life care guidelines are generally made reactively in response to the trend toward patient-centered care, and that to create effective guidelines and implement them requires multilevel cooperation between governmental bodies, healthcare teams, and patients and their families.
Libre et éclairé : voilà comment devrait être un consentement viable, valable et authentique, tant dans le monde de la santé que dans celui des affaires. Mieux même, et plus conforme à l’actualité, est qu’il soit « libre et informé » : cela met en avant la personne concernée plutôt que le message et sa source lumineuse forcément en surplomb. Telles sont en tout cas les conditions qui lui donnent son label aux plans de la loi et de la déontologie, si ce n’est à celui de l’éthique. Pour autant, liberté et information se situent-elles exactement au même niveau fondateur ? Jouent-elles des rôles symétriques dans le processus qui conduit au oui ?
In developing their policy on paediatric medical assistance in dying (MAID), DeMichelis, Shaul and Rapoport decide to treat euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide as ethically and practically equivalent to other end-of-life interventions, particularly palliative sedation and withdrawal of care (WOC). We highlight several flaws in the authors' reasoning. Their argument depends on too cursory a dismissal of intention, which remains fundamental to medical ethics and law. Furthermore, they have not fairly presented the ethical analyses justifying other end-of-life decisions, analyses and decisions that were generally accepted long before MAID was legal or considered ethical. Forgetting or misunderstanding the analyses would naturally lead one to think MAID and other end-of-life decisions are morally equivalent. Yet as we recall these well-developed analyses, it becomes clear that approving of some forms of sedation and WOC does not commit one to MAID. Paediatric patients and their families can rationally and coherently reject MAID while choosing palliative care and WOC. Finally, the authors do not substantiate their claim that MAID is like palliative care in that it alleviates suffering. It is thus unreasonable to use this supposition as a warrant for their proposed policy.
OBJECTIVES: Older patients with end-stage renal disease are willing participants in advance care planning but just over 10% are engaged in this process. Nephrologists fear such conversations may upset patients and so tend to avoid these discussions. This approach denies patients the opportunity to discuss their end-of-life care preferences. Many patients endure medically intensive end-of-life scenarios as a result. This study aims to explore the rationale underpinning nephrologists' clinical decision-making in the management of older patients with end-stage renal disease and to make recommendations that inform policymakers and enhance advance care planning for this patient group.
METHODS: A qualitative interview study of 20 nephrologists was undertaken. Nephrologists were asked about their management of end-stage renal disease in older patients, conservative management, dialysis withdrawal and end-of-life care. Eligible participants were nephrologists working in Ireland. Five nephrologists participated in a recorded focus group and 15 nephrologists participated in individual digitally recorded telephone interviews. Semistructured interviews were conducted; thematic analysis was used to distil the results.
RESULTS: Three key themes emerged: barriers to advance care planning; barriers to shared decision-making; and avoidance of end-of-life care discussion.
CONCLUSIONS: Advance care planning is not an integral part of the routine care of older patients with end-stage renal disease. Absence of formal training of nephrologists in how to communicate with patients contributes to poor advance care planning. Nephrologists lack clinical experience of conservatively managing end-stage renal disease and end-of-life care in older patients. Key policy recommendations include formal communication skills training for nephrologists and development of the conservative management service.
Purpose: This study aimed to clarify the experiences of caregivers desiring to refuse life-prolonging treatment for their elderly parents at the end of life.
Methods: A semi-structured interview was performed for four family caregivers who wanted to refuse life-prolonging treatment suggested by the physicians.
Results: In this study, four caregivers who refused life-prolonging treatment suggested by the physicians for their elderly parents completed semi-structured interviews. The obtained data were analyzed in relation to the theme "Experiences of caregivers who desire to refuse life-prolonging treatment for their elderly parents at the end of life." As a result, 38 subcategories and 12 categories were extracted.
Conclusions: Participants in this study initially had a negative view of life-prolonging treatment. However, they agonized over the decision when they received conflicting advice from the physicians. The participants indicated that physicians' advice and attitudes complicated their decisions to reject life-prolonging treatment for their elderly parents.
BACKGROUND: Nurses and physicians in nephrology settings provide care for patients with end-stage kidney disease receiving hemodialysis treatment along a complex illness trajectory.
AIM: The aim was to explore physicians' and nurses' perspectives on the trajectories toward the end of life involving decisions regarding hemodialysis withdrawal for patients with end-stage kidney disease.
RESEARCH DESIGN AND PARTICIPANTS: A qualitative research approach was used. Four mixed focus group interviews were conducted with renal physicians (5) and nurses (17) in Sweden. Qualitative content analysis was used to analyse data.
ETHICAL CONSIDERATIONS: Ethical approval was obtained (Dnr 2014/304-31).
FINDINGS AND DISCUSSION: Findings illuminated multi-faceted, intertwined processes encompassing healthcare professionals, patients, and family members. The analysis resulted in four themes: Complexities of initiating end-of-life conversations, Genuine attentiveness to the patient's decision-making process, The challenge awaiting the family members' processes, and Negotiating different professional responsibilities. Findings showed complexities and challenges when striving to provide good, ethical care which are related to beneficence, nonmaleficence, and self-determination, and which can give rise to moral distress.
CONCLUSION: There are ethical challenges and strains in the dialysis context that healthcare professionals may not always be prepared for. Supporting healthcare professionals in not allowing complexities to hinder the patient's possibilities for shared decision-making seems important. An open and continual communication, including family meetings, from dialysis initiation could serve to make conversations involving decisions about hemodialysis withdrawal a more natural routine, as well as build up a relationship of trust necessary for the advance care planning about the end of life. Healthcare professionals should also receive support in ethical reasoning to meet these challenges and handle potential moral distress in the dialysis context.
Palliative care concentrates on preventing and relieving suffering by reducing the severity of disease symptoms. Consistent treatment of pain and distress must therefore be an integral component of every palliative care concept. In this review non-pharmacological and pharmacological measures for pain and distress management in the context of palliative neonatal care are summarised. Furthermore, recommendations are given focusing on two special palliative neonatal care settings: compassionate extubation and withdrawing artificial nutrition and hydration.
Decision making on behalf of an incapacitated patient is challenging, particularly in the context of venoarterial extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (VA-ECMO), a medically complex, high-risk, and costly intervention that provides cardiopulmonary support. In the absence of a surrogate and an advance directive, the clinical team must make decisions for such patients. Because states vary in terms of which decisions clinicians can make, particularly at the end of life, the legal landscape is complicated. This commentary on a case of withdrawal of VA-ECMO in an unrepresented patient discusses Extracorporeal Life Support Organization guidelines for decision making, emphasizing the importance of proportionality in a benefits-to-burdens analysis.
The number of people living with Alzheimer disease and other dementias continues to grow because of the aging of the US population. Increasingly, the issue of patient- and/or surrogate-directed withholding of oral, hand-fed food and fluids in cases of late-stage dementia is confronting caregivers. Major media outlets have covered several cases wherein patients with explicit directives or clear surrogate decision making were not allowed to face the end of their lives according to their wishes. Ethical and legal scholars, as well as many end-of-life advocacy groups, are working to develop a framework and provide guidance in these cases. A local hospice organization was faced with these ethical deliberations when an activated proxy decision maker advocated for caregivers to stop hand feeding an incapacitated patient with end-stage dementia. In this article, this case is summarized, and this important ethical issue is presented in the setting of a literature review and nursing implications.
BACKGROUND/AIM: Appropriate decision-making in end-of-life (EOL) care is essential for both junior and senior physicians. The aim of this study was to compare the decision-making and attitudes of medical students with those of experienced general practitioners (GP) regarding EOL-care.
MATERIALS AND METHODS: A questionnaire presenting three cancer patient scenarios concerning decisions and ethical aspects of EOL-care was offered to 500 Finnish GPs and 639 graduating medical students in 2015-2016.
RESULTS: Responses were received from 222 (47%) GPs and 402 (63%) students. The GPs withdrew antibiotics (p<0.001) and nasogastric tubes (p=0.007) and withheld resuscitation (p<0.001), blood transfusions (p=0.002) and pleural drainage (p<0.001) more often than did the students. The students considered euthanasia and assisted suicide less reprehensible (p<0.001 in both) than did the GPs.
CONCLUSION: Medical students were more unwilling to withhold and withdraw therapies in EOL-care than were the GPs, but the students considered euthanasia less reprehensible. Medical education should include aspects of decision-making in EOL-care.
BACKGROUND: In Germany, practice patterns of conservative renal care (CRC), dialysis withdrawal (DW), and concomitant palliative care in patients who choose these options are unknown.
METHOD: A survey was designed including 13 structured and one open questions on the management and frequency of CRC and DW, local palliative care structure, and fundamentals of the decision-making process, and addressed to the head physicians of all renal centers (n = 193) of a non-profit renal care provider (KfH - Kuratorium für Dialyse und Nierentransplantation, Neu-Isenburg, Germany).
RESULTS: Response rate was 62.2% (n = 122 centers) comprising 14,197 prevalent dialysis patients and 159,652 renal outpatients. Two-thirds of the respondents were men (85% in the age group between 45 and 64 years). Mean time of experience in renal medicine was 22.2 years in men, 20.8 years in women. 94% of all centers provided CRC with a different frequency and proportion of patients (mean 8.4% of the center population, median 5%, range 0-50%). Mean proportion of DW was 2.85% per year (median 2%, range 1-15%). Physicians and center features were not significantly associated with utilization of CRC or DW. Palliative care management varied including local palliative teams, support by general physicians, or by the renal team itself. Hospice care was only established in patients undergoing CRC. Fundamentals of the decision-making process were the desire of the patient (90% in CRC, 67% in DW). Patients undergoing CRC changed their opinion towards treatment modality "frequently" in 18% of the cases, "occasionally" in 73%. Physicians' decisions were mostly driven by presumed fatal prognosis and poor physical or mental conditions of the individual patient. Different barriers to provide palliative care for the renal population like lack of education in palliative medicine, shortness of staff, lack of financial resources, and local palliative care structures were reported.
CONCLUSION: Compared to international numbers, in Germany, proportion of CRC and DW reported by non-profit renal centers is in the lower range. Center practice of palliative care management varies and is driven by availability of local palliative care resources and presumably by attitudes of the renal teams. Quality of palliative care and the decision-making process need further evaluation.
Les personnes en état végétatif permanent posent des questions éthiques, sociétales notamment sur la poursuite ou non de la nutrition et de l'hydratation artificielles. Dans cet article, l'auteur explore les processus décisionnels à l'oeuvre dans ces situations.
L’accompagnement médical de la vie finissante a évolué très fortement ces dernières décennies. Les décisions d’arrêts de traitements susceptibles de prolonger la vie sont devenues la norme des fins de vie en réanimation. Ailleurs la pratique de la sédation influence souvent le moment de la mort en raccourcissant la durée des agonies. L’intention du médecin de faire mourir son malade doit être reconnue et clairement assumée. Mais elle est secondaire par rapport à ce que souhaite le malade lui-même dans sa fin de vie. Quand celui-ci n’est plus capable de s’exprimer, les membres de sa famille ou ceux qu’il a désignés peuvent déterminer ce qu’aurait été sa volonté. Alors le médecin peut s’appuyer sur ces informations pour que le malade décède dans les meilleures conditions possibles correspondant à ses souhaits y compris un raccourcissement de son agonie. Radicalement autre est l’acte euthanasique réservé à ceux qui sont capables de demander une mort lucide et volontaire dans les conditions légales des pays qui l’ont rendu possible.
OBJECTIVES: Mechanical ventilation (MV) has been shown to improve survival and quality of life in motor neuron disease (MND). However, during the progression of MND, there may come a point when MV is no longer felt appropriate. Association of Palliative Medicine Guidelines have been recently published to help clinicians withdraw MV at the request of patients with MND in a safe and compassionate manner to ensure that symptoms of distress and dyspnoea are minimised.
METHODS: In this report, we discuss the palliative and ventilatory management of six ventilator-dependent patients with MND who had requested the withdrawal of MV as part of their end-of-life care.
RESULTS: We have withdrawn MV from six patients with MND at their request and our practice has been influenced by the Association of Palliative Medicine Guidelines.
CONCLUSION: Withdrawal of MV in MND at a patient's request is challenging but is also a fundamental responsibility of healthcare teams. We discuss the lessons we have learnt which will influence our practice and help other teams in the future.
An advance care directive (ACD) is a written expression of a person's preferences in relation to health care, which can appoint a trusted substitute decision-maker, describe personal values, and make explicit decisions consenting to, or refusing, certain treatments. When a person with a directive refusing life-sustaining treatments attempts suicide, opinions are divided as to the degree to which health care staff are bound by such a directive. In this section, I will provide an example of a patient who presents to hospital after attempting suicide who has a valid ACD refusing life-sustaining treatment. I will then describe the legislation relevant to ACDs in Victoria, Australia and ethical arguments relating to the application of an ACD in this context. I will present a decision-making algorithm for health care staff faced with the difficult decisions arising from such a presentation.
La décision médicale partagée est un processus complexe, notamment concernant l’arrêt des traitements spécifiques en oncologie. D’une part, le patient, plus vulnérable du fait d’une maladie avancée, et ses proches, redoutent cette interruption. D’autre part, l’oncologue dispose de plus en plus de possibilités thérapeutiques grâce aux avancées médicales réalisées ces dernières années. Une étude prospective observationnelle a été menée en oncologie. Elle s’est intéressée aux motifs faisant émerger le questionnement, au degré de concordance entre les différents interlocuteurs (équipe de soins palliatifs, oncologue, patients et proches) et à la décision finalement prise.
CONTEXT: It is especially important that patients are well-informed when making high stakes, preference-sensitive decisions like those on the Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST) form. However, there is currently no way to easily evaluate whether patients understand key concepts when making these important decisions.
OBJECTIVES: To develop a POLST knowledge survey.
METHODS: Expert (n = 62) ratings of key POLST facts were used to select items for a POLST Knowledge Survey. The survey was administered to nursing facility residents (n = 97) and surrogate decision-makers (n = 112). A subset (n = 135) were re-administered the survey after a standardized advance care planning discussion to assess responsiveness of the scale to change.
RESULTS: The 19-item survey demonstrated adequate reliability (α = 0.72.). Residents' scores (x = 11.4, standard deviation 3.3) were significantly lower than surrogate scores (x = 14.7, standard deviation 2.5) (p < .001). Scores for both groups increased significantly following administration of a standardized advance care planning discussion (p < .001). Although being a surrogate, age, race, education, cognitive functioning, and health literacy were significantly associated with higher POLST Knowledge Survey scores in univariate analyses, only being a surrogate (p < 0.001) and being white (p = 0.028) remained significantly associated with higher scores in multivariate analyses.
CONCLUSION: The 19-item POLST Knowledge Survey demonstrated adequate reliability and responsiveness to change. Findings suggest the survey could be used to identify knowledge deficits and provide targeted education to ensure adequate understanding of key clinical decisions when completing POLST.
INTRODUCTION: Dying patients with implantable defibrillators (ICD) have a risk of receiving unnecessary shocks before death. The aim of this study was to investigate if deactivation of shock therapy at end-of-life has increased since publication of new guidelines in 2010 on ICD management.
METHOD AND RESULTS: This is a study of two groups of ICD patients who died in hospitals before and after publication of new guidelines. Group 1 consists of 89 patients who died between 2003 and 2010. Group 2 consists of 252 patients, the total number of ICD patients in Sweden who died in hospital during 2014. Data was obtained from the Swedish ICD and Pacemaker Registry, Swedish Tax Agency and patient medical notes. Two-thirds died in wards other than Cardiology. Fifty-four percent in group 1 had a Do-Not-Resuscitate-order (DNR) compared to 73% in group 2. Shock deactivation was present in 52% in group 1 and 67% in group 2. The difference in shock deactivation between group 1 and 2 was only significant (p = 0.014) for DNR-patients treated in Cardiology. A significant difference (p = 0.036) was found in deactivation within group 2 between DNR-patients in Cardiology vs. DNR-patients in Non-Cardiology wards.
CONCLUSION: Two-thirds of ICD patients die in wards other than Cardiology. Since publication of guidelines on ICD management there is a general increase in shock deactivation for DNR-patients, but only significant for patients in Cardiology. This implicate that actions have to be taken for patients treated in Non-Cardiology wards to bridge the gap between guidelines recommendations and clinical practice.
BACKGROUND: In December 2017, Law 219/2017, 'Provisions for informed consent and advance directives', was approved in Italy. The law is the culmination of a year-long process and the subject of heated debate throughout Italian society. Contentious issues (advance directives, the possibility to refuse medical treatment, the withdrawal of medical treatment, nutrition and hydration) are addressed in the law.
MAIN TEXT: What emerges clearly are concepts such as quality of life, autonomy, and the right to accept or refuse any medical treatment - concepts that should be part of an optimal relationship between the patient and healthcare professionals. The law maximizes the value of the patient's time to decide. Every patient is allowed to make choices for the present (consenting to or refusing current treatment) as well as for the future, conceived as a continuation of the present, and to decide what comes next, based on what he/she already knows. The law identifies three distinct but converging paths towards the affirmation of a care relationship based on reciprocal trust and respect: the possibility to consent to or refuse treatment, the shared care planning, and advance directives.
CONCLUSIONS: The fundamental point to emerge from the new Italian law is that consensus is an essential connotation of the treatment relationship. Consensus is not limited to the acceptance/rejection of medical treatment but is ongoing. It is projected into the future through shared care planning and advance directives which act as tools for self-determination and the manifestation of the beliefs and preferences of persons unable to express their will. These principles are in line with the idea of appropriate care as evaluated from two different perspectives, one of scientific adequacy and the other commensurate with the individual's resources, fragility, values, and beliefs. Surely, however, the new law is not the end of the matter on issues such as conscientious objection, which is deeply rooted within the Italian cultural and political debate. In this regard, healthcare institutions and policymakers will be called upon to develop and implement organizational policies aimed at the management of foreseeable conscientious objection in this field.
AIM: "Early" withdrawal of life support therapies (eWLST) within the first 3 calendar days after resuscitation from cardiac arrest (CA) is discouraged. We evaluated a prospective multicenter registry of patients admitted to hospitals after resuscitation from CA to determine predictors of eWLST and estimate its impact on outcomes.
METHODS: CA survivors enrolled from 2012-2017 in the International Cardiac Arrest Registry (INTCAR) were included. We developed a propensity score for eWLST and matched a cohort with similar probabilities of eWLST who received ongoing care. The incidence of good outcome (Cerebral Performance Category of 1 or 2) was measured across deciles of eWLST in the matched cohort.
RESULTS: 2688 patients from 24 hospitals were included. Median ischemic time was 20 (IQR 11, 30) minutes, and 1148 (43%) had an initial shockable rhythm. Withdrawal of life support occurred in 1162 (43%) cases, with 459 (17%) classified as eWLST. Older age, initial non-shockable rhythm, increased ischemic time, shock on admission, out-of-hospital arrest, and admission in the United States were each independently associated with eWLST. All patients with eWLST died, while the matched cohort, good outcome occurred in 21% of patients. 19% of patients within the eWLST group were predicted to have a good outcome, had eWLST not occurred.
CONCLUSIONS: Early withdrawal of life support occurs frequently after cardiac arrest. Although the mortality of patients matched to those with eWLST was high, these data showed excess mortality with eWLST.