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Review of global approaches to end of life care in ICUs

The best way to deliver end-of-life care is an issue that’s grappled with every day when caring for patients in Intensive Care Units (ICU).

The primary goal, both here in Australia and globally, is to support each patient until they are well enough to be discharged but for some patients and their families there will always be a need to provide ethical, effective and locally appropriate end-of-life care.

A new report from the World Federation of Societies of Intensive and Critical Care Medicine (WFSICCM) task force, which was chaired by The George Institute’s Professor John Myburgh, presents an international summary of the different critical care society’s consensus statements on end-of-life care in the ICU around the world,

The statements from countries including Australia and New Zealand, India, America, South Africa and India discuss the procedures and processes relating to the withholding and withdrawal of life-sustaining treatments and the principles of palliative care through the alleviation of pain and suffering.

The report published in the Journal of Critical Care found that all consensus statements are based on ethical principles but there was a marked variation within these statements reflecting the differences between international cultures and societies.

The WFSICCM encourages individual Critical Care Societies to continue the debate of end-of-life care and to continue developing national guidelines and recommendations based not only on ethical and culturally sensitive principles but also on available research evidence, which can guide end-of-life care provided to ICU patients appropriate to each country. 

Read the Journal of Critical Care article.