The ethics of hastening death during terminal weaning.

Link to article at PubMed

The ethics of hastening death during terminal weaning.

Curr Opin Crit Care. 2013 Dec;19(6):636-41

Authors: Walton L, Bell D

PURPOSE OF REVIEW: Withdrawal of life-sustaining medical treatment (LSMT) is under scrutiny as next-of-kin challenge medical decision-making in the courts and established end-of-life pathways are withdrawn in the face of public criticism. With persistent lobbying for medically assisted dying as the other side of the coin, and professional advice that doctors distance themselves from this activity, the fine line between defensible palliative care and hastening a death needs to be unambiguously defined, particularly with additional confounders such as transplantation initiatives.
RECENT FINDINGS: The medical literature in this domain is dominated by ethical debate on euthanasia and medically assisted dying rather than defensibility within intensive care at the point of withdrawal of LSMT.
SUMMARY: The process and, therefore, the timing of dying is open to manipulation by intensivists, families, other hospital physicians, courts of law and extraneous influences such as organ donation. Intensivists faced with these challenging processes need to consider some key principles to help them navigate the management of dying. They need to demonstrate transparency in order to engender trust, be responsive to the dynamically evolving needs of patient and family, avoid ambiguity, show consistency and predictability and, finally, they need to conform with society's expectations and professional standards to achieve defensibility for their actions. Adherence to these principles is likely to minimize conflict, maximize patient benefit, maintain public confidence and avoid professional jeopardy.

PMID: 24240831 [PubMed - in process]

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