CONTEXT: Making end-of-life decisions in neonates involves ethically difficult and distressing dilemmas for healthcare providers. Insight into which factors complicate or facilitate this decision-making process could be a necessary first step in formulating recommendations to aid future practice.
OBJECTIVES: This study aimed to identify barriers to and facilitators of the end-of-life decision-making process as perceived by neonatologists and nurses.
METHODS: We conducted semi-structured face-to-face interviews with 15 neonatologists and 15 neonatal nurses, recruited through four neonatal intensive care units in Flanders, Belgium. They were asked what factors had facilitated and complicated previous end-of-life decision-making processes. Two researchers independently analysed the data, using thematic content analysis to extract and summarize barriers and facilitators.
RESULTS: Barriers and facilitators were found at three distinct levels: the case-specific context (e.g. uncertainty of the diagnosis and specific characteristics of the child, the parents and the healthcare providers which make decision-making more difficult), the decision-making process (e.g. multidisciplinary consultations and advance care planning (ACP) which make decision-making easier), and the overarching structure (e.g. lack of privacy and complex legislation making decision-making more challenging).
CONCLUSIONS: Barriers and facilitators found in this study can lead to recommendations, some simpler to implement than others, to aid the complex end-of-life decision making process. Recommendations include establishing regular multidisciplinary meetings to include all healthcare providers and reduce unnecessary uncertainty, routinely implementing ACP in severely ill neonates to make important decisions beforehand, creating privacy for bad-news conversations with parents and reviewing the complex legal framework of perinatal end-of-life decision-making.
BACKGROUND: Values clarification can assist families facing the threat of periviable delivery in navigating the complexity of competing values related to death, disability, and quality of life (QOL).
OBJECTIVE: We piloted values clarification exercises to inform resuscitation decision making and qualitatively assess perceptions of QOL.
METHODS: We conducted a mixed-method study of women with threatened periviable delivery (22 0/7-24 6/7 weeks) and their important others (IOs). Participants engaged in three values clarification activities as part of a semi-structured interview-(a) Card sorting nine conditions as an acceptable/unacceptable QOL for a child; (b) Rating/ranking seven common concerns in periviable decision making (scale 0-10, not at all to extremely important); and (c) "Agreed/disagreed" with six statements regarding end-of-life treatment, disability, and QOL. Participants were also asked to define "QOL" and describe their perceptions of a good and poor QOL for their child. Analysis was conducted using SAS version 9.4 and NVivo 12.
RESULTS: All mild disabilities were an acceptable QOL, while two-thirds of participants considered long-term mechanical ventilation unacceptable. Although pregnant women rated "Impact on Your Physical/Mental Health" (average 5.6) and IOs rated "financial Concerns" the highest (average 6.6), both groups ranked "financial Concerns" as the most important concern (median 5.0 and 6.0, respectively). Most participants agreed that "Any amount of life is better than no life at all" (pregnant women 62.1%; IOs 75.0%) and disagreed that resuscitation would cause "Too much suffering" for their child (pregnant women 71.4%; IOs 80.0%). Half were familiar with the phrase "QOL". Although the majority described a good QOL in terms of emotional well-being (eg "loved", "happy", "supported"), a poor QOL was described in terms of functionality (eg "dependent" and "confined"). Additionally, financial stability emerged as a distinctive theme when IOs discussed poor QOL.
CONCLUSION: Our study offers important insights on parental perspectives in periviable decision making and potential values clarification tools for decision support.
OBJECTIVE: The goal of this review is to analyse articles on the experience of surrogates who find themselves making end-of-life decisions for a relative with a major neurocognitive disorder in a nursing home.
DESIGN: An integrative review of the literature based on Whittemore and Knafl's method.
DATA SOURCES: This review used the CINAHL, PubMed, PsycInfo, Embase and Web of Science databases. A complementary search was also conducted via citation pearl searching, and the reference lists from the selected articles were manually verified.
REVIEW METHOD: The quality of the selected articles was assessed using the Crow Critical Appraisal Tool, and the data were extracted systematically and were then organised according to Mishel's uncertainty in illness theory. The data that did not correspond to any concept of the theory were excluded at this stage. Analysis was conducted using the method put forward by Miles, Huberman and Saldaña.
RESULTS: A total of 18 articles were selected: 11 qualitative, 5 quantitative and 1 using a mixed method, as well as 1 ethical argument. The subjects arising from the analysis of the articles were the types of decisions made, the support available for the surrogates, the role and involvement of the surrogates in the process and the factors that influence the decisions.
CONCLUSION: The results of this integrative review stimulate reflection on the needs of family members involved in making decisions, as well as on the nursing practice and research. Published literature is mainly from North America, and thus, more research is needed to better understand the impact of cultural and ethnic differences in the process, which was poorly covered by the existing literature. Also, exploring nurses' involvement in supporting surrogates may eventually better equip nurses for their interventions with surrogates.
IMPLICATIONS FOR PRACTICE: Describing the illness progression and the signification of palliative care to the resident with a NCD and their surrogate decision makers, as well as discussing end-of-life care preferences as early as possible are all nursing interventions that could potentially enhance surrogates' end-of-life decision-making process.
PURPOSE OF REVIEW: The purpose of this review is the 'when' and 'how' of the matter of withdrawing noninvasive ventilation (NIV) at end-of-life (EoL) setting, having in mind the implications for patients, families and healthcare team.
RECENT FINDINGS: Several recent publications raised the place and potential applications of NIV at EoL setting. However, there are no clear guidelines about when and how to withdraw NIV in these patients. Continuing NIV in a failing clinical condition may unnecessarily prolong the dying process. This is particularly relevant as frequently, EoL discussions are started only when patients are in severe distress, and they have little time to discuss their preferences and decisions.
SUMMARY: Better advanced chronic disease and EoL condition definitions, as well as identification of possible scenarios, should help to decision-making and find the appropriate time to initiate, withhold and withdraw NIV. This review emphasized the relevance of an integrated approach across illness' trajectories and key transitions of patients who will need EoL care and such sustaining support measure.
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.
There is a paucity of evidence on the role, use, benefit and challenges of artificial nutrition and hydration (ANH) in children at end of life. Parents express the difficulty they face with making the decision to withdraw ANH. Decision-making on the role of ANH in an individual child requires careful multidisciplinary team deliberation and clear goals of care with children and families. Four paediatric palliative care specialist centres reviewed the current literature and developed consensus guidelines on ANH at end of life. These guidelines seek to provide a practical approach to clinical decision-making on the role of ANH in a child or young person entering the end-of-life phase.
L’objectif de l’étude était de comprendre les arguments utilisés pour prendre une décision de fin de vie en réanimation néonatale. L’étude était une étude qualitative par entretiens individuels semi dirigés avec analyse thématique. Les composantes entrant dans les discussions sont nombreuses. On note parfois une confusion dans l’intentionnalité. Les décisions prises lors des fins de vie en réanimation semblent souvent difficiles surtout dans les tableaux cliniques en demi-teinte.
End-of-life decision making frequently involves a complex balancing of clinical, cultural, social, ethical, religious and economic considerations. Achieving a happy balance of these sometimes-competing interests, however, can be particularly fraught in a family-centric society like Singapore where the family unit often retains significant involvement in care determinations necessitating careful consideration of the family's position during the decision-making process. While various decision-making tools such as relational autonomy, best interests principle and welfare-based models have been proposed to help navigate such difficult decision-making processes, their application in practical terms, however, is dubious at best. This case report is presented to highlight these issues and explore the utility of these frameworks within the Singapore end-of-life care context when the interests of the family may be dissonant from those of the patient.
Background: Differences in perception and potential disagreements between parents and professionals regarding the attitude for resuscitation at the limit of viability are common. This study evaluated in healthcare professionals whether the decision to resuscitate at the limit of viability (intensive care versus comfort care) are influenced by the way information on incurred risks is given or received.
Methods: This is a prospective randomized controlled study. This study evaluated the attitude of healthcare professionals by testing the effect of information given through graphic fact sheets formulated either optimistically or pessimistically. The written educational fact sheet included three graphical presentations of survival and complication/morbidity by gestational age. The questionnaire was submitted over a period of 4 months to 5 and 6-year medical students from the Geneva University as well as physicians and nurses of the neonatal unit at the University Hospitals of Geneva. Our sample included 102 healthcare professionals.
Results: Forty-nine responders (48%) were students (response rate of 33.1%), 32 (31%) paediatricians (response rate of 91.4%) and 21 (20%) nurses in NICU (response rate of 50%). The received risk tended to be more severe in both groups compared to the graphically presented facts and current guidelines, although optimistic representation favoured the perception of “survival without disability” at 23 to 25 weeks. Therapeutic attitudes did not differ between groups, but healthcare professionals with children were more restrained and students more aggressive at very low gestational ages.
Conclusion: Written information on mortality and morbidity given to healthcare professionals in graphic form encourages them to overestimate the risk. However, perception in healthcare staff may not be directly transferable to parental perception during counselling as the later are usually naïve to the data received. This parental information are always communicated in ways that subtly shape the decisions that follow.
BACKGROUND: Adolescents and young adults undergoing heart transplantation experience risks of morbidity and mortality both pre- and post-transplant. To improve end-of-life care for this population, it is necessary to understand their medical and end-of-life decision-making preferences.
AIM: (1) To examine adolescent/young adult decision-making involvement specific to heart transplant listing, and (2) to characterize their preferences specific to medical and end-of-life decision making.
DESIGN: This cross-sectional research study utilized survey methods. Data were collected from October 2016 to March 2018.
SETTING/PARTICIPANTS: Twelve adolescent and young adult patients listed for heart transplant (ages = 12-19 years) and one parent for each were enrolled at a single-center, US children's hospital.
RESULTS: Consistent with their preferences, the majority of adolescent/young adult participants (82%) perceived a high level of involvement in the decision to be listed for transplant. Patient involvement in this decision was primarily by way of seeking advice or information from their parents and being asked to express their opinion from parents. Despite a preference among patients to discuss their prognosis and be involved in end-of-life decision making if seriously ill, only 42% of patients had discussed their end-of-life wishes with anyone. Few parents recounted having such discussions. Preferences regarding the timing and nature of end-of-life decision-making discussions varied.
CONCLUSIONS: Although young people are involved in the decision to pursue heart transplantation, little attention is paid to involving them in discussions regarding end-of-life decision making in a manner that is consistent with individual preferences.
Introduction: End-stage chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) patients with acute respiratory failure are often treated by representatives from different medical specialties. This study investigates if the choice of treatment is influenced by the medical specialty.
Methods: An online cross-sectional survey among four Austrian medical societies was performed, accompanied by a case vignette of a geriatric end-stage COPD patient with acute respiratory failure. Respondents had to choose between noninvasive ventilation (NIV), a conservative treatment attempt (without NIV) and a palliative approach. Ethical considerations and their impact on decision making were also assessed.
Results: Responses of 162 physicians (67 from intensive care units (ICUs), 51 from pulmonology or internal departments and 44 from geriatric or palliative care) were included. The decision for NIV (instead of a conservative or palliative approach) was associated with working in an ICU (OR 14.9, 95% CI 1.87-118.8) and in a pulmonology or internal department (OR 9.4, 95% CI 1.14-78.42) compared with working in geriatric or palliative care (Model 1). The decision for palliative care was negatively associated with working in a pulmonology or internal department (OR 0.16, 95% CI 0.05-0.47) and (nonsignificantly) in an ICU (OR 0.41, 95% CI 0.15-1.12) (Model 2).
Conclusions: Department association was shown to be an independent predictor for treatment decisions in end-stage COPD with acute respiratory failure. Further research on these differences and influential factors is necessary.
Background: Studies show significant associations between the various dimensions of religiousness and end-of-life (EOL) decisions, such as individuals with high religiosity are more likely to choose aggressive care at EOL. However, these studies focused largely on smaller cancer populations. To our knowledge, there is no existing literature about the association between religiosity and EOL decisions within a national sample of older adults.
Objective: The objective of this study was to investigate the association between religiosity and advance directive (AD) completion, and among those with an AD, documented EOL care preferences, using a nationally representative sample.
Methods: This was an observational study. Descriptive statistics and logistic regression were conducted with 6051 decedents from the Health and Retirement Study using self-reported frequency of religious service attendance, importance of religion, and religious affiliation.
Measurements: The dependent variables were AD completion and care preference. The independent variables were self-reported frequency of religious service attendance, importance of religion, and religious affiliation.
Results: Protestants and Catholics had significantly lower odds of AD completion, compared with those with no religious preferences. Decedents who reported religion as very important had significantly lower odds of AD completion than decedents who said religion is not too important. Furthermore, decedents who attended religious services at least once a week, compared with those who do not attend, had significantly higher odds of completing an AD. Among those who completed an AD, neither religiosity nor religious affiliation was significantly associated with preference for prolonged care.
Conclusions: Our study demonstrates the influence religiosity has on the development of ADs, prompting seriously ill patients' religious needs to be recognized and supported. It further suggests that religious services may provide a good opportunity for promoting knowledge and completion of ADs.
CONTEXT: Although religion and spirituality are important to surrogate decision makers, little is known about the role of religion in decision making regarding life sustaining treatments.
OBJECTIVES: To determine the relationships between dimensions of religion and spirituality and medical treatment decisions made by surrogates.
METHODS: This prospective, observational study enrolled patient/surrogate dyads from three hospitals in one metropolitan area. Eligible patients were 65 years or older and admitted to the medicine or medical intensive care services. Baseline surveys between hospital days 2-10 assessed seven dimensions of religion and spirituality. Chart reviews of the electronic medical record and regional health information exchange 6 months after enrollment identified the use of life sustaining treatments and hospice for patients who died.
RESULTS: There were 291 patient/surrogate dyads. When adjusting for other religious dimensions, demographic, and illness factors, only surrogates' belief in miracles was significantly associated with a lower surrogate preference for DNR status (Adjusted odds Ratio (aOR) 0.39, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.19, 0.78). Among patients who died, higher surrogate intrinsic religiosity was associated with lower patient receipt of life-sustaining treatments within the last 30 days (aOR 0.66, CI 0.45, 0.97). Belief in miracles (aOR 0.30, CI 0.10, 0.96) and higher intrinsic religiosity (aOR 0.70, CI 0.53, 0.93) were associated with lower hospice utilization.
CONCLUSIONS: Few religious variables are associated with end of life preferences or treatment. Belief in miracles and intrinsic religiosity may affect treatment and should be identified and explored with surrogates by trained chaplains or other clinicians with appropriate training.
Context: Older and seriously ill Australians are often admitted to hospital in the last year of their life. The extent to which these individuals have considered important aspects of end-of-life (EOL) care, including location in which care is provided, goals of care, and involvement of others in decision making, is unclear.
Objectives: To determine, in a sample of older and seriously ill Australian inpatients, preferences regarding location in which they receive EOL care and reasons for their choice; who is involved in EOL decisions; disclosure of life expectancy; goals of care; and voluntary-assisted dying.
Methods: Cross-sectional face-to-face survey interviews conducted with 186 (80% consent) inpatients in a tertiary referral center aged 80 years and older; or aged 55 years and older with progressive chronic disease(s); or with physician-estimated life expectancy of less than 12 months.
Results: Home care was preferred (69%), given the perceived availability of family/friends, familiarity of environment, and likelihood of having wishes respected. If unable to make decisions themselves, inpatients wanted family to decide care alone (31%) or with a doctor (49%). Of those who had not discussed life expectancy, 23% wished to. Most (76%) preferred care that maintained quality of life and relieved symptoms. There was some agreement for being sedated at the EOL (63%) and able to access medication to end life (43%).
Conclusion: Most inpatients would prefer EOL care that maintains quality and relieves suffering compared with life extension and to receive this care at home. Family involvement in resolution and documentation of EOL decisions should be prioritized.
When should doctors seek protective custody to override a parent's refusal of potentially lifesaving treatment for their child? The answer to this question seemingly has different answers for different subspecialties of pediatrics. This paper specifically looks at different thresholds for physicians overriding parental refusals of life-sustaining treatment between neonatology, cardiology, and oncology. The threshold for mandating treatment of premature babies seems to be a survival rate of 25-50%. This is not the case when the treatment in question is open heart surgery for a child with congenital heart disease. Most cardiologists would not pursue legal action when parents refuse treatment, unless the anticipated survival rate after surgery is above 90%. In pediatric oncology, there are case reports of physicians requesting and obtaining protective custody for cancer treatment when the reported mortality rates are 40-50%. Such differences might be attributed to differences in care, a reasonable prioritization of quality of life over survival, or the role uncertainty plays on prognoses, especially for the extremely young. Nonetheless, other, non-medical factors may have a significant effect on inconsistencies in care across these pediatric subspecialties and require further examinations.
Objective: To explore end-of-life (EoL) decision-making and palliative care in hypoxic-ischaemic encephalopathy (HIE) nationwide.
Methods: A cross-sectional national study on moderate-to-severe HIE in newborns =35 weeks’ gestational age in 2015, including all 57 level III units that offered hypothermia. Forty-one questions were included to explore how the prognosis is established, as well as timing of the decision-making process, and also how ongoing palliative care is offered.
Results: The main difficulties in EoL decisions lie in the scarce time to make an early, accurate prognosis. Only 20% shared the neurological prognosis with the parents within 72 hours of life, and in only a third of the centres is the nurse present when the prognostic information is given to the family. Almost 50% do not use protocols to order the EoL process. Practically, all centres (91%) reported taking into account the wishes of the parents. However, in 30% the team does not always reach consensus on how the withdrawal process. Specialised psychological support is available in 54% of the hospitals; in more than 50%, interviews are not arranged to examine the grieving process with parents.
Conclusions: There are four areas for improvement in the comprehensive, multidisciplinary approach to the EoL decision in the patient with HIE: (1) the need for EoL and interdisciplinary palliative care protocols, (2) participation of nurses in the process and improvement in the nurse–physician communication, (3) psychological support for parents involved in the EoL decisions and (4) implementation of strategies to give support during the grieving process.
OBJECTIVE: Despite the clinical, ethical, and legal magnitude of end-of-life decision-making, the capacity of terminally ill patients to make the medical decisions they often face is largely unknown. In practice, clinicians are responsible for determining when their patients are no longer competent to make treatment decisions, yet the accuracy of these assessments is unclear. The purpose of this study was to explore decision-making capacity and its assessment in terminally ill cancer patients.
METHODS: Fifty-five patients with advanced cancer receiving inpatient palliative care and 50 healthy adults were administered the MacArthur Competence Assessment Tool for Treatment (MacCAT-T) to evaluate decision-making capacity with regard to the four most commonly used legal standards: Choice, Understanding, Appreciation, and Reasoning. Participants made a hypothetical treatment decision about whether to accept artificial nutrition and hydration for treatment of cachexia. Participants' physicians independently rated their decision-making capacity.
RESULTS: Terminally ill participants were significantly more impaired than healthy adults on all MacCAT-T subscales. Most terminally ill participants were able to express a treatment choice (85.7%), but impairment was common on the Understanding (44.2%), Appreciation (49.0%), and Reasoning (85.4%) subscales. Agreement between physician-rated capacity and performance on the MacCAT-T subscales was poor.
CONCLUSIONS: The use of the MacCAT-T revealed high rates of decisional impairment in terminally ill participants. Participants' physicians infrequently detected impairment identified by the MacCAT-T. The findings from the present study reinforce the need for engagement in advance care planning for patients with advanced cancer.
When a patient lacks decision-making capacity, then according to standard clinical ethics practice in the United States, the health care team should seek guidance from a surrogate decision-maker, either previously selected by the patient or appointed by the courts. If there are no surrogates willing or able to exercise substituted judgment, then the team is to choose interventions that promote a patient's best interests. We argue that, even when there is input from a surrogate, patient preferences should be an additional source of guidance for decisions about patients who lack decision-making capacity. Our proposal builds on other efforts to help patients who lack decision-making capacity provide input into decisions about their care. For example, "supported," "assisted," or "guided" decision-making models reflect a commitment to humanistic patient engagement and create a more supportive process for patients, families, and health care teams. But often, they are supportive processes for guiding a patient toward a decision that the surrogate or team believes to be in the patient's medical best interests. Another approach holds that taking seriously the preferences of such a patient can help surrogates develop a better account of what the patient's treatment choices would have been if the patient had retained decision-making capacity; the surrogate then must try to integrate features of the patient's formerly rational self with the preferences of the patient's currently compromised self. Patients who lack decision-making capacity are well served by these efforts to solicit and use their preferences to promote best interests or to craft would-be autonomous patient images for use by surrogates. However, we go further: the moral reasons for valuing the preferences of patients without decision-making capacity are not reducible to either best-interests or (surrogate) autonomy considerations but can be grounded in the values of liberty and respect for persons. This has important consequences for treatment decisions involving these vulnerable patients.
OBJECTIVES: To elicit decisions that diverse older adults and surrogates perceive as serious, difficult, or important and explore what helped them make those decisions.
DESIGN: Focus groups (N=13) in which participants were asked to recall serious, difficult, or important medical decisions and what helped them make those decisions.
SETTING: Clinics, support groups and senior centers.
PARTICIPANTS: Diverse English- and Spanish-speaking older adults (age: mean 78, range 64-89) and surrogates (age: mean 57, range 33-76) (29% African American, 26% white, 26% Asian or Pacific Islander, 19% Hispanic) (N=69).
MEASUREMENTS: We used thematic analysis to analyze transcripts.
RESULTS: We identified 168 decisions. Older adults from all racial and ethnic groups frequently recalled cancer treatment decisions and decisions about chronic illness management. Surrogates described decisions about transitions in care and medical crises. Older adults valued self-sufficiency and maximizing survival and relied on personal experiences as often as medical advice. In all racial and ethnic groups, surrogates valued avoiding suffering for loved ones.
CONCLUSION: Diverse older adults and surrogates perceive life-threatening illness and day-to-day decisions about chronic disease to be serious, difficult, and important. The surrogates' goal of avoiding suffering of older adults may differ from older adults' priorities of self-sufficiency and maximizing survival. Clinicians should support older adults and surrogates in identifying important and difficult decisions and learn about the values and information sources they bring to decision-making. With this knowledge, clinicians can customize decision support and achieve person-centered care.