Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Futile Treatment in the ICU

According to a recent JAMA Internal Medicine report, nearly 20% of intensive care unit patients are receiving treatment that is futile or probably futile. Among those who received futile care, 68% died while hospitalized.

Futile treatment may be defined as interventions that prolong life without achieving an effect that the patient can appreciate as a benefit.

Why are futile treatments given to patients?
Possible reasons may include lack of agreement from the family, lack of agreement within the clinical team or the failure of doctors to talk about end-of-life issues.

What can you do to avoid futile treatments for yourself or a loved one?
Speak early and often about issues that concern you, as well as your values and preferences. Ask for the help of expert consultants, such as palliative care doctors or an ethics committee. Discuss which treatment options fit your goals. Don’t be afraid to ask for extra time to speak with a physician.

Before a healthcare crisis, put your wishes in writing. Ask us for a copy of Five Wishes, to establish advance directives in the event that you are no longer able to speak for yourself.