, Volume 30, Issue 5, pp 770-784
Date: 20 Apr 2004

Challenges in end-of-life care in the ICU

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Abstract

The jurors identified numerous problems with end of life in the ICU including variability in practice, inadequate predictive models for death, elusive knowledge of patient preferences, poor communication between staff and surrogates, insufficient or absent training of health-care providers, the use of imprecise and insensitive terminology, and incomplete documentation in the medical records. The jury strongly recommends that research be conducted to improve end-of-life care. The jury advocates a “shared” approach to end-of-life decision-making involving the caregiver team and patient surrogates. Respect for patient autonomy and the intention to honour decisions to decline unwanted treatments should be conveyed to the family. The process is one of negotiation, and the outcome will be determined by the personalities and beliefs of the participants. Ultimately, it is the attending physician’s responsibility, as leader of the health-care team, to decide on the reasonableness of the planned action. In the event of conflict, the ICU team may agree to continue support for a predetermined time. Most conflicts can be resolved. If the conflict persists, however, an ethics consultation may be helpful. Nurses must be involved in the process. The patient must be assured of a pain-free death. The jury of the Consensus Conference subscribes to the moral and legal principles that prohibit administering treatments specifically designed to hasten death. The patient must be given sufficient analgesia to alleviate pain and distress; if such analgesia hastens death, this “double effect” should not detract from the primary aim to ensure comfort.

Sponsored by the American Thoracic (ATS), the European Respiratory Society (ERS), the European Society of Intensive Care Medicine (ESICM), the Society of Critical Care Medicine (SCCM) and the Société de Réanimation de Langue Française (SRLF).
Jurors and co-authors: Massimo Antonelli (Rome, Italy), Joan Cassell (St. Louis, USA), Peter Cox (Toronto, Canada), Nicholas Hill (Boston, USA), Charles Hinds (London, UK), Jorge Pimentel (Coimbra, Portugal), Konrad Reinhart (Jena, Germany), and B. Taylor Thompson (Boston, USA).
Consensus Conference organisation: Scientific advisors: François Lemaire (Créteil, France), and Gordon Rubenfeld (Seattle, USA).
International Consensus Conference Committee. ATS: Brian Kavanagh (Toronto, Canada), B. Taylor Thompson (Boston, USA); ERS: Mark Elliott (Leeds, UK), Thomas Similowski (Paris, France); ESICM: Julian Bion (Birmingham, UK), Rui Moreno (Lisbon, Portugal); SCCM: Mitchell Levy (Providence, USA), Ann Thompson (Pittsburgh, USA); SRLF: Didier Dreyfuss (Colombes, France), Jean Chastre (Paris, France).
Scientific experts: Elie Azoulay (Paris, France), Amber Barnato (Pittsburgh, USA), Jean-Michel Boles (Brest, France), Robert A. Burt (Connecticut, USA), Jean-Claude Chevrolet (Geneva, Switzerland), Deborah Cook (Hamilton, Canada), Randall Curtis (Seattle, USA), Andres Esteban (Madrid, Spain), Edouard Ferrand (Créteil, France), Jesse Hall (Chicago, USA), Marjorie Kagawa-Singer (Los Angeles, USA), David Kuhl (Vancouver, Canada), Paul Lanken (Philadelphia, USA), François Lemaire (Créteil, France), Mitchell Levy (Providence, USA), John Luce (San Francisco, USA), Piotr Mierzewski (Strasbourg, France), Pamela Mitchell (Seattle, USA), Rui Moreno (Lisbon, Portugal), Astrid Norberg (Umea, Sweden), Thomas J. Prendergast (Lebanon, USA), Kathleen Puntillo (San Francisco, USA), Gordon Rubenfeld (Seattle, USA), Larry Schneiderman (San Diego, USA), Gerard Silvestri (Charleston, USA), Peter Sjökvist (Stockholm, Sweden), Charles Sprung (Jerusalem, Israel), Daniel Sulmasy (New York, USA), Robert Truog (Boston, USA), Jean-Louis Vincent (Brussels, Belgium)