Background: This study examined the experience of withholding or withdrawing life-sustaining treatment in patients hospitalized in the intensive care units (ICUs) of a tertiary care center. It also considers the role that intensivists play in the decision-making process regarding the withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment. Methods: We retrospectively analyzed the medical records of 227 patients who decided to withhold or withdraw life-sustaining treatment while hospitalized at Ewha Womans University Medical Center Mokdong between April 9 and December 31, 2018. Results: The 227 hospitalized patients included in the analysis withheld or withdrew from life-sustaining treatment. The department in which life-sustaining treatment was withheld or withdrawn most frequently was hemato-oncology (26.4%). Among these patients, the most common diagnosis was gastrointestinal tract cancer (29.1%). A majority of patients (64.3%) chose not to receive any life-sustaining treatment. Of the 80 patients in the ICU, intensivists participated in the decision to withhold or withdraw life-sustaining treatment in 34 cases. There were higher proportions of treatment withdrawal and ICU-to-ward transfers among the cases in whom intensivists participated in decision making compared to those cases in whom intensivists did not participate (50.0% vs. 4.3% and 52.9% vs. 19.6%, respectively). Conclusions: Through their participation in end-of-life discussions, intensivists can help patients’ families to make decisions about withholding or withdrawing life-sustaining treatment and possibly avoiding futile treatments for these patients.
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Copyright © 2020 The Korean Society of Critical Care Medicine.
- Intensive care units
- Resuscitation orders
- Terminal care
- Withholding treatment