Choosing Wisely:

Don’t continue life support for patients at high risk for death or severely impaired functional recovery without offering patients and their families the alternative of care focused entirely on comfort.

Rationale and Comments: Patients and their families often value the avoidance of prolonged dependence on life support. However, many of these patients receive aggressive life-sustaining therapies, in part due to clinicians’ failures to elicit patients’ values and goals, and to provide patient-centered recommendations. Routinely engaging high-risk patients and their surrogate decision makers in discussions about the option of foregoing life-sustaining therapies may promote patients’ and families’ values, improve the quality of dying and reduce family distress and bereavement. Even among patients pursuing life-sustaining therapy, initiating palliative care simultaneously with ongoing disease-focused therapy may be beneficial.
Sponsoring Organizations:
  • Critical Care Societies Collaborative–Critical Care
  • Sources:
  • Expert consensus
  • Disciplines:
  • Geriatric Medicine
  • References: • Fields MJ, Cassel CK. Approaching death, improving care at the end of life. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press; 1997: 437.
    • Angus DC, Barnato AE, Linde-Zwirble WT, Weissfeld LA, Watson RS, Rickert T, Rubenfeld GD; Robert Wood Johnson Foundation ICU End-Of-Life Peer Group. Use of intensive care at the end of life in the United States: an epidemiologic study. Crit Care Med. 2004;32(3):638–43.
    • Curtis JR, Engelberg RA, Wenrich MD, Shannon SE, Treece PD, Rubenfeld GD. Missed opportunities during family conferences about end-of-life care in the intensive care unit. Amer J Respir Crit Care Med. 2005;171:844–9.
    • Gries CJ, Engelberg RA, Kross EK, Zatzick D, Nielsen EL, Downey L, Curtis JR. Predictors of symptoms of posttraumatic stress and depression in family members after patient death in the ICU. Chest. 2010;137(2):280–7.

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