End-of-life care of critically ill adult patients with advanced or incurable cancers is imbued with major ethical challenges. Oncologists, hospitalists, and intensivists can inadvertently subjugate themselves to the perceived powers of autonomous patients. Therapeutic illusion and poor insight by surrogates in physicians' ability to offer accurate prognosis, missed opportunities and miscommunication by clinicians, and lack of systematic or protocolized approach represent important barriers to high-quality palliative care. Enhanced collaboration, models that allow clinicians and surrogates to share the burdens of decision, and institutional support for early integration of palliative care can foster an ethical climate.
BACKGROUND: In the palliative care setting, infection control measures implemented due to COVID-19 have become barriers to end-of-life care discussions (eg, discharge planning and withdrawal of life-sustaining treatments) between patients, their families, and multidisciplinary medical teams. Strict restrictions in terms of visiting hours and the number of visitors have made it difficult to arrange in-person family conferences. Phone-based telehealth consultations may be a solution, but the lack of nonverbal cues may diminish the clinician-patient relationship. In this context, video-based, smartphone-enabled family conferences have become important.
OBJECTIVE: We aimed to establish a smartphone-enabled telehealth model for palliative care family conferences. Our model integrates principles from the concept of shared decision making (SDM) and the value, acknowledge, listen, understand, and elicit (VALUE) approach.
METHODS: Family conferences comprised three phases designed according to telehealth implementation guidelines-the previsit, during-visit, and postvisit phases. We incorporated the following SDM elements into the model: "team talk," "option talk," and "decision talk." The model has been implemented at a national cancer treatment center in Taiwan since February 2020.
RESULTS: From February to April 2020, 14 telehealth family conferences in the palliative care unit were analyzed. The patients' mean age was 73 (SD 10.1) years; 6 out of 14 patients (43%) were female and 12 (86%) were married. The primary caregiver joining the conference virtually comprised mostly of spouses and children (n=10, 71%). The majority of participants were terminally ill patients with cancer (n=13, 93%), with the exception of 1 patient with stroke. Consensus on care goals related to discharge planning and withdrawal of life-sustaining treatments was reached in 93% (n=13) of cases during the family conferences. In total, 5 families rated the family conferences as good or very good (36%), whereas 9 were neutral (64%).
CONCLUSIONS: Smartphone-enabled telehealth for palliative care family conferences with SDM and VALUE integration demonstrated high satisfaction for families. In most cases, it was effective in reaching consensus on care decisions. The model may be applied to other countries to promote quality in end-of-life care in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
PURPOSE OF REVIEW: The purpose of this review is to describe ethical and legal issues that arise in the management of patients with disorders of consciousness ranging from the minimally conscious state to the coma state, as well as brain death.
RECENT FINDINGS: The recent literature highlights dilemmas created by diagnostic and prognostic uncertainties in patients with disorders of consciousness. The discussion also reveals the challenges experienced by the disability community, which includes individuals with severe brain injury who are classified as having a disorder of consciousness. We review current guidelines for management of patients with disorders of consciousness including discussions around diagnosis, prognosis, consideration of neuropalliation, and decisions around life sustaining medical treatment.
SUMMARY: In the setting of uncertainty, this review describes the utility of applying a disability rights perspective and shared decision-making process to approach medical decision-making for patients with disorders of consciousness. We outline approaches to identifying surrogate decision makers, standards for decision-making and decision-making processes, specifically addressing the concept of futility as a less useful framework for making decisions. We also highlight special considerations for research, innovative and controversial care, brain death, organ donation, and child abuse and neglect.
AIMS: To examine hospital nurses' perception of their actual and potential contribution to shared decision-making about life-prolonging treatment and their perception of the pre-conditions for such a contribution.
DESIGN: A qualitative interview study.
METHODS: Semi-structured face-to-face interviews were conducted with 18 hospital nurses who were involved in care for patients with life-threatening illnesses. Data were collected from October 2018-January 2019. The interviews were recorded, transcribed verbatim and analysed using thematic analysis by two researchers.
RESULTS: Nurses experienced varying degrees of influence on decision-making about life-prolonging treatment. Besides, we identified different points of contact in the treatment trajectory at which nurses could be involved in treatment decision-making. Nurses' descriptions of behaviours that potentially contribute to shared decision-making were classified into three roles as follows: checking the quality of a decision, complementing shared decision-making and facilitating shared decision-making. Pre-conditions for fulfilling the roles identified in this study were: (a) the transfer of information among nurses and between nurses and other healthcare professionals; (b) a culture where there is a positive attitude to nurses' involvement in decision-making; (c) a good relationship with physicians; (d) knowledge and skills; (e) sufficient time; and (f) a good relationship with patients.
CONCLUSION: Nurses described behaviour that reflected a supporting role in shared decision-making about patients' life-prolonging treatment, although not all nurses experienced this involvement as such. Nurses can enhance the shared decision-making process by checking the decision quality and by complementing and facilitating shared decision-making.
IMPACT: Nurses are increasingly considered instrumental in the shared decision-making process. To facilitate their contribution, future research should focus on the possible impact of nurses' involvement in treatment decision-making and on evidence-based training to raise awareness and offer guidance for nurses on how to adopt this role.
BACKGROUND: Individuals with advanced cancer and their families have negative end-of-life experiences when the care they receive is not aligned with their values and preferences.
OBJECTIVE: To obtain in-depth information on how patients with advanced cancer and the oncology and palliative care (PC) clinicians who care for them discuss goals of care (GoC).
DESIGN: The research team conducted in-depth interviews and qualitative data analysis using open coding to identify how perspectives on GoC discussions vary by stage of illness, and experience with PC teams.
SETTING/SUBJECTS: Twenty-five patients and 25 oncology and PC team members in a large multi-specialty group in Northern California.
RESULTS: At the time of diagnosis participants described having establishing GoC conversations about understanding the goal of treatment (e.g. to extend life), and prognosis ("How much time do I have?"). Patients whose disease progressed or pain/symptoms increased reported changing GoC conversations about stopping treatment, introducing hospice care, prognostic awareness, quality of life, advance care planning, and end-of-life planning. Participants believed in the fluidity of prognosis and preferences for prognostic communication varied. Patients appreciated how PC teams facilitated changing GoC conversations. Timing was challenging; some patients desired earlier conversations and PC involvement, others wanted to wait until things were "going downhill."
CONCLUSION: Patients and clinical teams acknowledged the complexity and importance of GoC conversations, and that PC teams enhanced conversations. The frequency, quality, and content of GoC conversations were shaped by patient receptivity, stage of illness, clinician attitudes and predispositions toward PC, and early integration of PC.
The Japan Geriatrics Society has so far announced "The Japan Geriatrics Society Position Statement 2012" and "Guidelines for the Decision-Making Processes in Medical and Long-Term Care for the Elderly - Focusing on the Use of Artificial Hydration and Nutrition" related to end-of-life care for older adults. In 2018, the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare revised the "Guidelines for the Decision-Making Processes in Medical and Long-Term Care in the End of Life," recommending the practice of advance care planning (ACP). This was the first time when the Japanese government publicized its stance on ACP. Immediately after the government's announcement, the Japan Medical Association announced its committee report, "The Super-aged Society and the End-of-life Care," which also recommended the practice of ACP. The guidelines were published when the society was experiencing substantial changes related to geriatric care in Japan, and required timely and ethically appropriate decision-making processes. However, because ACP is a concept imported from English-speaking countries, some Japanese people could find it difficult to understand the role and methodology of ACP because of differences in culture and the medical/long-term care system. Therefore, the Japan Geriatrics Society has decided to publish the "Recommendations for the Promotion of Advance Care Planning" for medical and long-term care professionals nationwide with the aim of using the recommendations on a daily basis. The society recognizes ACP as indispensable to improve end-of-life care for individuals, particularly for older adults. We anticipate that the recommendations will provide practical guidance for those strenuously working toward this goal.
BACKGROUND: Shared decision-making (SDM) is the process in which healthcare professionals and patients jointly discuss and decide which care and treatment policy is to be followed. The importance of SDM is increasingly being recognised across health settings, including palliative care. Little is known about SDM with people with intellectual disabilities (IDs) in the last phase of life. This review aimed to explore to which extent and in which way people with ID in the last phase of life are involved in decision-making about their care and treatment.
METHOD: In this scoping review, we systematically searched in the Embase, Medline and PsycINFO databases for empirical studies on decision-making with people with ID in the last phase of life.
RESULTS: Of a total of 281 identified titles and abstracts, 10 studies fulfilled the inclusion criteria. All focused on medical end-of-life decisions, such as foregoing life-sustaining treatment, do-not-attempt-resuscitation orders or palliative sedation. All studies emphasise the relevance of involving people with ID themselves, or at least their relatives, in making decisions at the end of life. Still, only two papers described processes of decision-making in which persons with ID actively participated. Furthermore, in only one paper, best practices and guidelines for decision-making in palliative care for people with ID were defined.
CONCLUSION: Although the importance of involving people with ID in the decision-making process is emphasised, best practices or guidelines about what this should look like are lacking. We recommend developing aids that specifically support SDM with people with ID in the last phase of life.
BACKGROUND: Little is known about the attitudes and practices of intensivists working in Lebanon regarding withholding and withdrawing life-sustaining treatments (LSTs). The objectives of the study were to assess the points of view and practices of intensivists in Lebanon along with the opinions of medical, legal and religious leaders regarding withholding withdrawal of life-sustaining treatments in Lebanese intensive care units (ICU).
METHODS: A web-based survey was conducted among intensivists working in Lebanese adult ICUs. Interviews were also done with Lebanese medical, legal and religious leaders.
RESULTS: Of the 229 survey recipients, 83 intensivists completed it, i.e. a response rate of (36.3%). Most respondents were between 30 and 49 years old (72%), Catholic Christians (60%), anesthesiologists (63%), working in Beirut (47%). Ninety-two percent of them were familiar with the withholding and withdrawal concepts and 80% applied them. Poor prognosis of the acute and chronic disease and futile therapy were the main reasons to consider withholding and withdrawal of treatments. Ninety-five percent of intensivists agreed with the "Principle of Double Effect" (i.e. adding analgesia and or sedation to patients after the withholding/withdrawal decisions in order to prevent their suffering and allow their comfort, even though it might hasten the dying process). The main withheld therapies were vasopressors, respiratory assistance and CPR. Most of the respondents reported the decision was often to always multidisciplinary (92%), involving the family (68%), and the patient (65%), or his advance directives (77%) or his surrogate (81%) and the nurses (78%). The interviewees agreed there was a law governing withholding and withdrawal decisions/practices in Lebanon. Christians and Muslim Sunni leaders declared accepting those practices (withholding or withdrawing LSTs from patients when appropriate).
CONCLUSION: Withholding and withdrawal of LSTs in the ICU are known concepts among intensivists working in Lebanon and are being practiced. Our results could be used to inform and optimize therapeutic limitation in ICUs in the country.
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.
Les soins palliatifs demandent de plus en plus de compétences médicales, soignantes, humaines et éthiques, afin d’asseoir leur légitimité dans des domaines de plus en plus pointus de la médecine – réanimation, néonatalogie, cancérologie, gériatrie – ainsi que dans la diversité des prises en charge, y compris au domicile ou en EPHAD.
Dans ce contexte de développement des formations et d’élargissement des champs de compétences de la pratique palliative, cette 5e édition du manuel offre :
-les indispensables connaissances thérapeutiques ;
-les outils, à destination des professionnels en vue d’acquérir une compétence clinique pour la rencontre et l’accompagnement humain, psychique et relationnelle de la personne malade ;
-une contextualisation de la pratique des soins palliatifs dans leur dimension sociale, sanitaire et politique ;
-des jalons pédagogiques pour le développement des soins palliatifs dans leur dimension pédagogique et de recherche.
Background: The purpose of this paper is to describe how end-of-life care is managed when life-support limitation is decided in a Pediatric Intensive Care Unit and to analyze the influence of the further development of the Palliative Care Unit.
Methods: A 15-year retrospective study of children who died after life-support limitation was initiated in a pediatric intensive care unit. Patients were divided into two groups, pre- and post-palliative care unit development. Epidemiological and clinical data, the decision-making process, and the approach were analyzed. Data was obtained from patient medical records.
Results: One hundred seventy-five patients were included. The main reason for admission was respiratory failure (86/175). A previous pathology was present in 152 patients (61/152 were neurological issues). The medical team and family participated together in the decision-making in 145 cases (82.8%). The family made the request in 10 cases (9 vs. 1, p = 0.019). Withdrawal was the main life-support limitation (113/175), followed by withholding life-sustaining treatments (37/175). Withdrawal was more frequent in the post-palliative group (57.4% vs. 74.3%, p = 0.031). In absolute numbers, respiratory support was the main type of support withdrawn.
Conclusions: The main cause of life-support limitation was the unfavourable evolution of the underlying pathology. Families were involved in the decision-making process in a high percentage of the cases. The development of the Palliative Care Unit changed life-support limitation in our unit, with differences detected in the type of patient and in the strategy used. Increased confidence among intensivists when providing end-of-life care, and the availability of a Palliative Care Unit may contribute to improvements in the quality of end-of-life care.
Background: Communication and shared decision-making (SDM) are essential to patient-centered care. Hospital-based palliative care with patients with limited health literacy (LHL) poses particular demands on communication. In this context, patients’ emotions and vulnerable condition impact their skills to obtain, understand, process and apply information about health and healthcare even more. If healthcare providers (HCPs) meet these demands, it could enhance communication. In this study, HCPs were interviewed and asked for their strategies, barriers and suggestions for improvement regarding communication and SDM with LHL patients in hospital-based palliative care.
Methods: qualitative interview study was conducted in 2018 in four Dutch hospitals with 17 HCPs—11 physicians and 6 nurses. Transcripts were analyzed using thematic analysis.
Results: In general HCPs recognized limited literacy as a concept, however, they did not recognize limited health literacy. Regarding SDM some HCPs were strong advocates, others did not believe in SDM as a concept and perceived it as unfeasible. Furthermore, five themes, acting as either strategies, barriers or suggestions for improvement emerged from the interviews: 1) time management; 2) HCPs’ communication skills; 3) information tailoring; 4) characteristics of patients and significant others; 5) the content of the medical information.
Conclusions: According to HCPs, more time to communicate with their patients could resolve the most prominent barriers emerged from this study. Further research should investigate the organizational possibilities for this and the actual effectiveness of additional time on effective communication and SDM. Additionally, more awareness for the concept of LHL is needed as a precondition for recognizing LHL. Furthermore, future research should be directed towards opportunities for tailoring communication, and the extent to which limited knowledge and complex information affect communication and SDM. This study provides first insights into perspectives of HCPs, indicating directions for research on communication, SDM and LHL in hospital-based palliative care.
Objective: Mechanical ventilation, a measure of life-sustaining treatment (LST), may not be helpful and can be devastating for patients with terminal illness. We explored the effects of demographic characteristics, attitude, subjective norms, and perceived behavioral control on the behavioral intentions of primary caregivers to withdraw LST of long-term ventilator-dependent patients.
Methods: Primary caregivers of ventilator-dependent patients in the respiratory care units of six hospitals participated in the study. A cross-sectional design including the domains of attitude, subjective norms, perceived behavioral control, and behavioral intention was adopted.
Results: Valid data for 99 participants were analyzed using logistic regression. Religious belief, a spousal relationship with the patient, item 5 in subjective norms, and item 5 in perceived behavioral control positively influenced the intention to withdraw patient LST.
Conclusions: Religious beliefs, a spousal relationship, perceived behavioral control (confidence in relieving patient suffering), and the opportunity of current favorable subjective norms are major determinants of the intention to withdraw patients’ LST.
Practice Implications: Shared decision-making with the kin and primary caregivers of long-term ventilator-dependent patients at the end of life is crucial.
Background: The challenges of supporting the end-of-life preferences of patients and their families have often been attributed to poor understanding of the patient’s condition. Understanding how physicians, as patients, communicate their end-of-life care preferences to their families may inform shared decision making at end of life.
Objectives: The purpose of this study was to understand what matters to families of physicians when decision making with and for a physician who is approaching the end of life.
Design: Cross-sectional qualitative design.
Participants: We conducted interviews with family members of deceased physicians.
Approach: We analyzed the data using the constant comparison method to identify themes.
Key results: Family members (N = 26) rarely were unclear about the treatment preferences of physicians who died. Three overarching themes emerged about what matters most to physicians’ families: (1) honoring preferences for the context of end-of-life care; (2) supporting the patient’s control and dignity in care; and, (3) developing a shared understanding of preferences. Families struggled to make decisions and provide the care needed by the physicians at the end of life, often encountering significant challenges from the healthcare system.
Conclusions: Even when disease and prognosis are well understood as in this group of physicians, families still experienced difficulties in end-of-life decision making. These findings highlight the need to specifically address preferences for caregiver, care setting and symptom management in shared end-of-life decision making conversations with patients and families.
This insightful study examines the deeply personal and heart-wrenching tensions among financial considerations, emotional attachments, and moral arguments that motivate end-of-life decisions.
America’s health care system was built on the principle that life should be prolonged whenever possible, regardless of the costs. This commitment has often meant that patients spend their last days suffering from heroic interventions that extend their life by only weeks or months. Increasingly, this approach to end-of-life care is coming under scrutiny, from a moral as well as a financial perspective. Sociologist Roi Livne documents the rise and effectiveness of hospice and palliative care, and growing acceptance of the idea that a life consumed by suffering may not be worth living.
Values at the End of Life combines an in-depth historical analysis with an extensive study conducted in three hospitals, where Livne observed terminally ill patients, their families, and caregivers negotiating treatment. Livne describes the ambivalent, conflicted moments when people articulate and act on their moral intuitions about dying. Interviews with medical staff allowed him to isolate the strategies clinicians use to help families understand their options. As Livne discovered, clinicians are advancing the idea that invasive, expensive hospital procedures often compound a patient’s suffering. Affluent, educated families were more readily persuaded by this moral calculus than those of less means.
Once defiant of death—or even in denial—many American families and professionals in the health care system are beginning to embrace the notion that less treatment in the end may be better treatment.
Durant les trois dernières décennies, l’évolution des prises en charge médicales et la réorganisation de notre système de santé ont totalement modifié les rapports entre les professionnels de santé, les patients et leurs proches. La demande de participation des patients à la démarche de soins a été croissante, posant la question de la liberté de choix des malades et questionnant de plus en plus les domaines où celle-ci serait niée.
Twenty percent of Americans die in an intensive care unit (ICU), often incapacitated or requiring assisted decision making. Surrogates are often required to make urgent, complex, high-stakes decisions. Communication among patients, families, and clinicians is often delayed and inefficient with frequent missed opportunities to support the emotional and psychological needs of surrogates, particularly at the end of life. The Critical Care Nurse Communicator program is a nurse-led, primary palliative care intervention designed to improve the quality and consistency of communication in the ICU and address the informational, psychological, and emotional needs of surrogate decision-makers through the shared decision-making process.
Hispanic Americans are among the fastest growing minority groups in the USA, and understanding their preferences for medical decision-making and information sharing is imperative to provide high quality end of life care. Studies exploring these decision control preferences (DCPs) are limited and found inconsistent results. (1) To measure DCPs of Hispanic patients in the Bronx. (2) To measure disclosure of information preferences of Hispanic patients in the Bronx. This is a cross-sectional survey. One hundred nineteen cancer patients who self-identified as Hispanic and were waiting at the oncology clinic at Montefiore Medical Center Cancer Center. Proportions of patients endorsing DCPs and disclosure of information preferences are reported. The relationship between patient characteristics and DCPs was tested using chi-squared tests of homogeneity. The majority (63, 52.9%) preferred shared decision-making with their doctors, families or both, while 46 (38.7%) had an active decision-making style. A minority (9, 7.6%) had a passive decision-making style, deferring to their families, and only 1 (0.8%) deferring to the physician. No demographic characteristics significantly predicted DCPs. The majority of patients agreed or strongly agreed that they wanted to hear all of the information regarding their diagnosis (94%), treatment options (94%), treatment expectations (92%), and treatment risks and benefits (96%). These results confirm our hypothesis that most Hispanic patients prefer either an active or shared decision-making process rather than a passive decision-making process. Most patients prefer disclosure of diagnosis, prognosis, and plan.
BACKGROUND: Cancer remains the leading cause of death by disease for children in the United States. It is imperative to optimize measures to support patients and families facing the end of a child's life. This study asked bereaved parents to reflect on their child's end-of-life care to identify which components of decision-making, supportive services, and communication were helpful, not helpful, or lacking.
METHODS: An anonymous survey about end-of-life experiences was sent to families of children treated at a single institution who died of a malignancy between 2010 and 2017.
RESULTS: Twenty-eight surveys were returned for a 30.8% response rate. Most of the bereaved parents (61%) reported a desire for shared decision-making; this was described by 52% of families at the end of their child's life. There was a statistically significant association between how well death went and whether the parental perception of actual decision-making aligned with desired decision-making (P = .002). Families did not utilize many of the supportive services that are available including psychology and psychiatry (only 22% used). Respondents felt that additional services would have been helpful.
CONCLUSIONS: Health care providers should strive to participate in decision-making models that align with the preferences of the patient and family and provide excellent communication. Additional resources to support families following the death of a child should be identified for families or developed and funded if a gap in available services is identified.