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Communication & End of Life Issues

Communication & End of Life Issues

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Communication & End of Life Issues

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  1. Communication & End of Life Issues

  2. Goals of Healthcare • Restore health • Relieve suffering These goals are not incompatible. The treatment being offered must be defined within the context of the goals.

  3. Geriatric ICU Care • 70% ICU admissions over age 60 • ICU mortality for age > 60 = 70% • 11% Medicare recipients spend > 7 days in ICU within 6 months before death • 77% of Medicare costs in last year of life

  4. Communication • Around 50% of family members have misunderstanding of Diagnosis, Prognosis, or Treatment after meeting the Physician • Conducting Family Conference is very Important • The essence of family conference are consistent communication & a private place for communication

  5. The behaviors which improve family communication are V – value statements/questions made by family members A - acknowledge family emotions L - listen to family members U - understand & address who the patient is E – elicit family questions Communication

  6. Surrogate • It is important for the physician to identify a suitable family member as a surrogate decision maker for the patient • Family means spouse, children, parents, next of kin, or even a trusted friend

  7. Recommendation 1 • The physician has a moral and legal obligation to disclose to the capable patient/family, with honesty and clarity, the dismal prognostic status of the patient with justification when further aggressive support appears non-beneficial. • The physician is obliged to initiate open discussions around the imminence of death or intolerable disability, the benefits and burden of treatment options and the appropriateness of allowing natural death.

  8. Recommendation 2 • When the fully informed capable patient/family desires to consider the overall treatment goal of “comfort care only” option, the physician should explicitly communicate the standard modalities of limiting life-prolonging interventions • Options – Full support - Do not intubate(DNI), DNR status - Withholding of life support - Withdrawal of life support - Palliative care

  9. Withholding of Treatment Not initiating a therapy that has a disproportionate burden without achieving reasonable clinical goals (Intubation, vasopressors, mechanical ventilation, dailysis, IV fluids, enteral or parenteral feeds)

  10. Withdrawing vs. Withholding • Withholding a treatment is viewed as equivalent to withdrawing an intervention. • Distinction between failing to initiate and stopping therapy is artificial. • Justification that is adequate for not commencing treatment is sufficient for ceasing it.

  11. Withdrawal vs. Withholding • No presumption that, once begun, no matter how futile, the treatment must be continued. • No difference between withdrawal and withholding. • Not “care” but treatment. We still care for the patient but do not offer or continue non-medically beneficial treatment.

  12. Withdrawal and Withholding • 1988 - 50% of ICU deaths preceded by decision to withdraw or withhold treatment • 1993 - 90% of ICU deaths • Includes DNR orders

  13. Withdrawal of Mechanical Ventilation • N Engl J Med, 2003 • 15 ICUs • Examine clinical determinants associated with withdrawal of mechanical ventilation • 851 patients: • 539 weaned (63.3%) • 146 died (17.2%) • 166 withdraw (19.5%)

  14. Withdrawal of Mechanical Ventilation • Need for inotropes or vasopressors • Physician’s prediction of survival < 10% • Physician’s prediction of limitation of future cognitive function • Physician’s perception that patient did not want life support used

  15. Withdrawing vs. Withholding • Withholding a treatment is viewed as equivalent to withdrawing an intervention. • Distinction between failing to initiate and stopping therapy is artificial. • Justification that is adequate for not commencing treatment is sufficient for ceasing it. • Withdrawing & Withholding are considered equivalent ethically & legally by the critical care community. Troug et al. Crit Care Med 2001. • Physicians have strong biases that significantly affect their decisions to withdraw life sustaining treatment. Christaxis et al. Public health 1995

  16. Withdrawal vs. Withholding • No presumption that, once begun, no matter how futile, the treatment must be continued. • No difference between withdrawal and withholding. • Not “care” but treatment. We still care for the patient but do not offer or continue non-medically beneficial treatment.

  17. Withdrawal of Support • All ethical issues relating to withdrawal should be discussed. • Decision making in the ICU needs interaction of clinicians, nurses, primary & consulting physicians & their interaction with the patient & family • Once it is established that all parties agree that the best option for the patient is that the life support can be withheld or withdrawn • There is no need to taper vasopressors, antibiotics, nutrition & most other critical care treatments

  18. Withdrawal of Support • “Terminal Ventilator discontinuation” – FiO2 reduced to room air, ventilator support reduced to zero, possible distress & pain prevented by dosing of opiods, patient placed on T-piece or extubated. The transition from full ventilatory support to extubation should take less than 10-20 min. • The physician should continue to be available to the family for guidance & discussion. • Families should be cautioned that death, while expected, may not be certain & the timing can vary.

  19. Withdrawal of Support • For patients discharged home for terminal care, suitable arrangements for transport & home care should be made • The patient’s family should have free access to the patient during the last days of his life • The patient should be allowed every opportunity to experience spiritual meaning & fulfillment • Performance of unobtrusive bedside religious services or rites may be encouraged

  20. Active Euthanasia • Actively shortening the dying process • Performing an act with the specific intent of shortening the dying process • Overdose of narcotics, anesthesia, paralytics, etc. • It is not the absolute dose of narcotics, but a change in the dose

  21. Surrogate Consent • Patient lacks decisional capacity • Apply substituted judgment • Promote patient’s wishes and express beliefs of the patient • “What would your loved one do in this situation?” • Avoid implication of “pulling the plug” • Not ending life but avoiding prolonged suffering

  22. Withholding Treatment Case scenario: • 60-year-old male • Widely metastatic colon cancer • S/p exp lap, bypass of obstructing lesion • Develops SOB on floor, transferred to ICU • Minor distress, unable to give consent, no family at all Would you intubate him?

  23. Withholding Treatment Options: • Intubate him • Trial of 5 - 7 days to see is he improves on vent. • Continue intubation until he dies in ICU • Do not intubate him • Several MDs document that mechanical ventilation will not benefit him medically • Continue to provide comfort therapy

  24. Withholding Treatment “For a patient with metastatic cancer and liver failure, respiratory support on a ventilator does not even have to be offered because it will only prolong a death rather than provide treatment of the disease.” Hening, 2001

  25. Recommendation 3 • The physician must elicit and respect the choices of the patient expressed directly or through his family(surrogates) during family conferencing sessions and work towards a shared decision-making. He should thus ensure respect of the patient’s autonomy in making an informal choice, while fulfilling his/her obligation to provide beneficent care.

  26. Early, open, & effective communication facilitates a more smooth transition from curative to palliative care, reduces the frequency of futile care & decreases the possibility of conflict & litigation between families & health care workers.

  27. Effective Communication & Family Satisfaction • Adequate time (multiple counseling sessions & privacy) • Frequent & consistent information provided by a single contact physician • Adequacy of physician & nurses • Ensuring enough time for the family to ask questions & express themselves • Help from family physician

  28. Recommendation 4 • Pending consensus decisions or in the event of conflict with the family/patient, the physician must continue all existing life supportive interventions. The physician however, is not morally or legally obliged to institute new therapies against his/her better clinical judgment in keeping with accepted standards of care.

  29. Recommendation 5 • The discussions leading up to the decision to withhold life-sustaining therapies should be clearly documented in the case records, to ensure transparency & to avoid future misunderstandings. Such documentation should mention the persons who participated in the decision making & the treatments withheld or withdrawn.

  30. Recommendation 6 • The overall responsibility for the decision rests with the attending physician/intensivist of the patient, who must ensure that all members of the caregiver team including the medical & nursing staff agree with & follow the same approach to the care of the patient.

  31. Recommendation 7 • If the capable patient or family consistently desires that life support be withdrawn, in situations in which the physician considers aggressive treatment nonbeneficial, the treating team is ethically bound to consider withdrawal within the limits of existing laws.

  32. LAMA, DORB • Often stated, initiated on request of family on financial grounds • Used by physician often with tacit support of the administration to transfer responsibility & culpability • Absolve the medical community of responsibility to deal with questions of treatment withdrawal • Dishonest & unethical

  33. Recommendation 8 • In the event of withdrawal or withholding of support, it is the physicians obligation to provide compassionate & effective palliative care to the patient as well as attend to the emotional needs of the family.

  34. Principle of Double Effect • Ensuring adequate palliation while differentiating clinician actions from active hastening of death • Distinction based on intent of action • Use of pain medicines to relieve pain and suffering

  35. Withdrawal of Support • All ethical issues relating to withdrawal should be discussed • Possible distress & pain will be prevented by medication & prompt action • The physician should continue to be available to the family for guidance & discussion • For patients discharged home for terminal care, suitable arrangements for transport & home care should be made

  36. Withdrawal of Support • The patient’s family should have free access to the patient during the last days of his life • The patient should be allowed every opportunity to experience spiritual meaning & fulfillment • Performance of unobtrusive bedside religious services or rites may be encouraged

  37. Brain Death • Irreversible cessation of all functions of brain including the brainstem • Does not include persistent vegetative state • The above criteria allows removal of life support • Transplantation of Human Organ Act 1994 • Brain death law needs to be modified

  38. Non-medically Beneficial Treatment(Futile Care) It is well established in medical ethics and law that it is appropriate to withhold medical intervention when such interventions provide no reasonable likelihood of benefit to the patient.

  39. Non-medically Beneficial Treatment(Futile Care) • How is medical futility defined? • Disease must be terminal • Disease must be irreversible • Death must be imminent • Merely preserves permanent unconsciousness or cannot end dependence on intensive medical care • Clear legal definition does not exist

  40. Non-medically Beneficial Treatment(Futile Care) Case scenario: • 85-year-old male • MVC, rib fx • Vent.-dependent for 6 months • Wife continues to “want everything done” • Develops renal failure

  41. Non-medically Beneficial Treatment(Futile Care) Would you offer dialysis? If so, why? If not, why not?

  42. Non-medically Beneficial Treatment(Futile Care) “Physicians are not obligated to provide care they consider physiologically futile even if a patient or family insists. If treatment cannot achieve its intended purpose, then to withhold it does not cause harm. Nor is failure to provide it a failure of standard of care.” Luce, 2001

  43. Non-medically Beneficial Treatment(Futile Care) “Physicians are not ethically obligated to deliver care that, in their best professional judgment, will not have a reasonable chance of benefiting their patients. Patients should not be given treatments simply because they demand them. Denial of treatment should be justified by reliance on openly stated ethical principles and acceptable standards of care, not on the concept of ‘futility,’ which cannot be meaningfully defined.” AMA

  44. Futile Care & Unilateral Action • Prognosis of imminent death • Metastatic cancers with failed treatment • Very elderly with dementia • Chronic vegetative state with organ dysfunction

  45. Futile Care & Unilateral Action • Second opinion • Multiple counseling (hopeless prognosis) • Committee of doctors for counseling • Suggesting transfer of patient • Judicial review has no precedence in India Therefore unilateral action is not available to the Indian physician at present.

  46. Brain Death • Irreversible cessation of all functions of brain including the brainstem • Does not include persistent vegetative state • In India, brain death is defined only for the purpose of the Transplantation of Human Organ Act 1994. Indian law does not define the state of brain death in contexts other than organ transplantation. • In the opinion of the Committee(ISCCM guidelines) , brain death should be regarded, as equivalent of death in all circumstances and the law should be suitably amended.

  47. Aruna Shanbaug (6.3.2011) • The honourable judges for the first time pronounced that brain death (when brain activity has ceased while the patients breathing is sustained artificially) is equivalent to death. • This would allay physicians apprehensions about removing life supports from such a patient & would improve organ retrieval opportunities for organ transplantation.

  48. Indian Law Commission • The term “Passive Euthanasia” as opposed to active killing (Euthanasia) is misleading and therefore no more used in contemporary medical terminology. Mani R K • Withdrawal & withholding decisions are distinct from Euthanasia and therefore do not violate suicide laws. 196th report of Indian Law Commission, 2006, Justice Jagannadha Rao

  49. Legal Issues • Indian law has no clearly stated position Needed • Right to refuse treatment act • Withdrawal & withholding of life-sustaining treatment act • Right to palliative care act • A consensus regarding the practices relating to End of Life care in Indian ICUs should eventually lead to evolution of appropriate legislation in keeping with the changing needs of critical care practice

  50. Legal Issues • Only clear legal rule on medically futile treatment is traditional malpractice test • Likely to get better legal results when refuse to provide nonbeneficial treatment and then defend position in court as consistent with professional standards than when seek advance permission from court to withhold treatment