Estimating the potential life-shortening effect of continuous sedation until death: a comparison between two approaches

Journal of Medical Ethics 40 (7):458-462 (2014)
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Abstract

Context In some cases, physicians estimate that continuous sedation until death may have a life-shortening effect. The accuracy of these estimations can be questioned.Aim The aim of this study is to compare two approaches to estimate the potential life-shortening effect of continuous sedation until death.Methods In 2008, 370 Dutch physicians filled out a questionnaire and reported on their last patient who received continuous sedation until death. The potential life-shortening effect of continuous sedation was estimated through a direct approach and an indirect approach . The intrarater agreement between both approaches was determined with a weighted κ.Results According to the direct approach, sedation might have had a life-shortening effect in 51% of the cases and according to the indirect approach in 84%. The intrarater agreement between both approaches was fair . In 10% of all cases, the direct approach yielded higher estimates of the extent to which life had been shortened; in 58% of the cases, the indirect approach yielded higher estimates.Conclusions The results show a discrepancy between different approaches to estimate the potential life-shortening effect of continuous sedation until death

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