Appropriateness of intensive care treatments near the end of life during the COVID-19 pandemic

Magnolia Cardona, Matthew Anstey, Ebony T. Lewis, Shantiban Shanmugam, Ken Hillman, Alex Psirides

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Abstract

The patient and family perspective on the appropriateness of intensive care unit (ICU) treatments involves preferences, values and social constructs beyond medical criteria. The clinician’s perception of inappropriateness is more reliant on clinical judgment. Earlier consultation with families before ICU admission and patient education on the outcomes of life-sustaining therapies may help reconcile these provider–patient disagreements. However, global emergencies like COVID-19 change the usual paradigm of end-of-life care, as it is a new disease with only scarce predictive information about it. Pandemics can also bring about the burdensome predicament of doctors having to make
unwanted choices of rationing access to the ICU when demand for otherwise life-saving resources exceeds supply. Evidence-based prognostic checklists may guide treatment triage but the principles of shared decision-making are unchanged. Yet, they need to be altered with respect to COVID-19,
defining likely outcomes and likelihood of benefit for the patient, and clarifying their willingness to take on the risks inherent to being in an ICU for 2 weeks for those eligible. For patients who are admitted during the prodrome of COVID-19 disease, or those who deteriorate in the second week, clinicians have some lead time in hospital to have appropriate discussions about ceilings of treatments offered based on severity.
Original languageEnglish
Article number200062
Number of pages10
JournalBreathe
Volume16
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 25 Sep 2020

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