Hospital Policy on Appropriate Use of Life-sustaining Treatment


OBJECTIVE: To describe the issues faced, and how they were addressed, by the University of Toronto Critical Care Medicine Program/Joint Centre for Bioethics Task Force on Appropriate Use of Life-Sustaining Treatment. The clinical problem addressed by the Task Force was dealing with requests by patients or substitute decision makers for life-sustaining treatment that their healthcare providers believe is inappropriate. DESIGN: Case study. SETTING: The University of Toronto Joint Centre for Bioethics/Critical Care Medicine Program Task Force on Appropriate Use of Life-Sustaining Treatment. PARTICIPANTS: The 24-member Task Force included physician and nursing leaders from five critical care units, bioethicists, a legal scholar, a health administration expert, a social worker, and a hospital public relations professional. INTERVENTIONS: None. MEASUREMENTS AND MAIN RESULTS: Our specific lessons learned include a) a policy focus on process; b) use of a negotiation and mediation model, rather than a hospital ethics committee model, for this process; and c) the policy development process is itself a negotiation, so we recommend equal involvement of interested groups including patients, families, and the public. CONCLUSIONS: This article describes the key issues faced by the Task Force while developing its policy. It will provide a useful starting point for other groups developing policy on appropriate use of life-sustaining treatment

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Charles Weijer
University of Western Ontario

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