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Medicina (Buenos Aires)

Print version ISSN 0025-7680On-line version ISSN 1669-9106


NOVILLO, Abel et al. Limitation of life-sustaining treatment: A prospective study developed in a clinical ward. Medicina (B. Aires) [online]. 2008, vol.68, n.6, pp.437-441. ISSN 0025-7680.

The purpose of this study is to describe the limiting life-sustaining treatment process of patients admitted to a general ward. A prospective descriptive study was designed. The setting was the general ward of universitary hospital. Study participants were patients assisted by the internal medicine department during a 60- consecutive days period who had limitations of life sustaining treatments. During the study period, 402 patients were hospitalized, 62 (15%) of them had limitations of life support care. The median patient age of the last group was 86 years (78-90), 66% were women and the length of stay was 12 days (8-18). A low quality of life was the most frequent cause of limitation (69%). Information about the limitations was provided to 43 families (69%) and 8 patients (13%). The primary care physician participated in the decision in 50% of the cases, while the attending physician, the resident in charge, patient's family and patients themselves participated in 50%, 40%, 42% and 11% of the cases respectively. The decision of limiting life-sustaining treatments was recorded in seven patient's charts (11%). Seventeen (27%) patients with limitations died during the hospital stay while 44 (71%) were discharged. In conclusion, we found a frequent life sustaining treatment limitation in our patients. These decisions did not follow a uniform or systemized process. The need of guidelines to sort the medical and ethical challenges imposed to the medical team is undeniable.

Keywords : Treatment; Suspension of; Life support care; Quality of life; General ward.

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