Bioethics Blogs

Involvement of ICU Families in Decisions: Fine-tuning the Partnership

Elie Azoulay and colleagues in Paris has just published “Involvement of ICU Families in Decisions: Fine-tuning the Partnership” in the Annals of Intensive Care.


















I have written a lot about the resolution of intractable end-of-life conflicts.  If the lessons and strategies in this article were followed, there would be far fewer such conflicts.

Here is the abstract:

“Families of patients are not simple visitors to the ICU. They have just been separated from a loved one, often someone they live with, either abruptly or, in nearly half the cases, because a chronic condition has suddenly worsened. They must cope with a serious illness of a loved one, while having to adapt to the unfamiliar and intimidating ICU environment. In many cases, the outcome of the critical illness is uncertain, a situation that causes considerable distress to the relatives. 

“As shown by our research group and others, families exhibit symptoms of anxiety (70%) and depression (35%) in the first few days after admission, as well as symptoms of stress (33%) and difficulty understanding the information delivered by the healthcare staff (50%). Furthermore, relatives of patients who die in the ICU are at risk for psychiatric syndromes such as generalized anxiety, panic attacks, depression, and posttraumatic stress syndrome. In this setting of psychological distress, families are asked to consider sharing in healthcare decisions about their loved one in the ICU.”

“This article aims to foster the debate about the shared decision-making process. We have three objectives: to transcend the overly simplistic position that opposes paternalism and autonomy, to build a view founded only on an evaluation of actual practice and experience in the field, and to keep the focus squarely on the patient.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.