Changes in End-of-Life Practices in European Intensive Care Units From 1999 to 2016.

Sprung, Charles L; Ricou, Bara; Hartog, Christiane S; Maia, Paulo; Mentzelopoulos, Spyros D; Weiss, Manfred; Levin, Phillip D; Galarza, Laura; de la Guardia, Veronica; Schefold, Jörg C.; Baras, Mario; Joynt, Gavin M; Bülow, Hans-Henrik; Nakos, Georgios; Cerny, Vladimir; Marsch, Stephan; Girbes, Armand R; Ingels, Catherine; Miskolci, Orsolya; Ledoux, Didier; ... (2019). Changes in End-of-Life Practices in European Intensive Care Units From 1999 to 2016. JAMA : the journal of the American Medical Association, 322(17), pp. 1692-1704. American Medical Association 10.1001/jama.2019.14608

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Importance End-of-life decisions occur daily in intensive care units (ICUs) around the world, and these practices could change over time. Objective To determine the changes in end-of-life practices in European ICUs after 16 years. Design, Setting, and Participants Ethicus-2 was a prospective observational study of 22 European ICUs previously included in the Ethicus-1 study (1999-2000). During a self-selected continuous 6-month period at each ICU, consecutive patients who died or had any limitation of life-sustaining therapy from September 2015 until October 2016 were included. Patients were followed up until death or until 2 months after the first treatment limitation decision. Exposures Comparison between the 1999-2000 cohort vs 2015-2016 cohort. Main Outcomes and Measures End-of-life outcomes were classified into 5 mutually exclusive categories (withholding of life-prolonging therapy, withdrawing of life-prolonging therapy, active shortening of the dying process, failed cardiopulmonary resuscitation [CPR], brain death). The primary outcome was whether patients received any treatment limitations (withholding or withdrawing of life-prolonging therapy or shortening of the dying process). Outcomes were determined by senior intensivists. Results Of 13 625 patients admitted to participating ICUs during the 2015-2016 study period, 1785 (13.1%) died or had limitations of life-prolonging therapies and were included in the study. Compared with the patients included in the 1999-2000 cohort (n = 2807), the patients in 2015-2016 cohort were significantly older (median age, 70 years [interquartile range {IQR}, 59-79] vs 67 years [IQR, 54-75]; P < .001) and the proportion of female patients was similar (39.6% vs 38.7%; P = .58). Significantly more treatment limitations occurred in the 2015-2016 cohort compared with the 1999-2000 cohort (1601 [89.7%] vs 1918 [68.3%]; difference, 21.4% [95% CI, 19.2% to 23.6%]; P < .001), with more withholding of life-prolonging therapy (892 [50.0%] vs 1143 [40.7%]; difference, 9.3% [95% CI, 6.4% to 12.3%]; P < .001), more withdrawing of life-prolonging therapy (692 [38.8%] vs 695 [24.8%]; difference, 14.0% [95% CI, 11.2% to 16.8%]; P < .001), less failed CPR (110 [6.2%] vs 628 [22.4%]; difference, -16.2% [95% CI, -18.1% to -14.3%]; P < .001), less brain death (74 [4.1%] vs 261 [9.3%]; difference, -5.2% [95% CI, -6.6% to -3.8%]; P < .001) and less active shortening of the dying process (17 [1.0%] vs 80 [2.9%]; difference, -1.9% [95% CI, -2.7% to -1.1%]; P < .001). Conclusions and Relevance Among patients who had treatment limitations or died in 22 European ICUs in 2015-2016, compared with data reported from the same ICUs in 1999-2000, limitations in life-prolonging therapies occurred significantly more frequently and death without limitations in life-prolonging therapies occurred significantly less frequently. These findings suggest a shift in end-of-life practices in European ICUs, but the study is limited in that it excluded patients who survived ICU hospitalization without treatment limitations.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


04 Faculty of Medicine > Department of Intensive Care, Emergency Medicine and Anaesthesiology (DINA) > Clinic of Intensive Care

UniBE Contributor:

Schefold, Jörg Christian


600 Technology > 610 Medicine & health




American Medical Association




Mirella Aeberhard

Date Deposited:

21 Oct 2019 13:02

Last Modified:

30 Apr 2020 16:21

Publisher DOI:


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