Should Emergency Department Patients with End-of-Life Directives be Admitted to the ICU?
BACKGROUND: Whether emergency physicians should utilize critical care resources for patients with advance care planning directives is a complex question. Because the cost of intensive care unit (ICU)-level care, in terms of human suffering and financial burden, can be considerable, ICU-level care ought to be provided only to those patients who would consent and who would benefit from it.
OBJECTIVES: In this article, we discuss the interplay between clinical indications, patient preferences, and advance care directives, and make recommendations about what the emergency physician must consider when deciding whether a patient with an advance care planning document should be admitted to the ICU.
DISCUSSION: Although some patients may wish to avoid certain aggressive or invasive measures available in an ICU, there may be a tendency, reinforced by recent Society of Critical Care Medicine guidelines, to presume that such patients will not benefit as much as other patients from the specialized care of the ICU. The ICU still may be the most appropriate setting for hospitalization to access care outside of the limitations set forward in those end-of-life care directives. On the other hand, ICU beds are a scarce and expensive resource that may offer aggressive treatments that can inflict suffering onto patients unlikely to benefit from them. Goals-of-care discussions are critical to align patient end-of-life care preferences with hospital resources, and therefore, the appropriateness of ICU disposition.
CONCLUSIONS: End-of-life care directives should not automatically exclude patients from the ICU. Rather, ICU admission should be based upon the alignment of uniquely beneficial treatment offered by the ICU and patients' values and stated goals of care.
Published In/Presented At
Jesus, J. E., Marshall, K. D., Kraus, C. K., Derse, A. R., Baker, E. F., McGreevy, J., & American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) Ethics Committee (2018). Should Emergency Department Patients with End-of-Life Directives be Admitted to the ICU?. The Journal of emergency medicine, 55(3), 435–440. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jemermed.2018.06.009
Medicine and Health Sciences
Department of Emergency Medicine