Decision-making regarding withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment and the role of intensivists in the intensive care unit: A single-center study

Seo In Lee, Kyung Sook Hong, Jin Park, Young Joo Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations

Abstract

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 The department in which life-sustaining treatment was withheld or withdrawn most frequently was hemato-oncology (26.4%).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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)179-188
Number of pages10
JournalAcute and Critical Care
Volume35
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 2020

Keywords

  • Euthanasia
  • Intensive care units
  • Resuscitation orders
  • Terminal care
  • Withholding treatment

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