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Pattern of end-of-life decisions in two Tunisian intensive care units: the role of culture and intensivists’ training

Islem Ouanes| Néji Stambouli| Fahmi Dachraoui| Lamia Ouanes-Besbes| Samir Toumi| Faouzi Ben Salem| Mourad Gahbiche| Fekri Abroug
End of Life: National Legislations
Volume 38, Issue 4 / April , 2012

Pages 710 - 717

Abstract

Purpose

End-of-life (EOL) decisions are not well studied in developing countries. We report EOL decision patterns in two Tunisian intensive care units [ICUs, medical (MICU) and surgical (SICU)] belonging to the same teaching hospital.

Methods

Consecutive deaths that occurred in participating ICUs over 2 years were analysed. End-of-life decisions were prospectively recorded by the senior attending physicians, while subject’s characteristics were retrospectively collected.

Results

Deaths occurred in 326 of 1,733 ICU-admitted patients (median age: 64 years; median SAPS II at admission = 36). Overall, a decision for full support was taken in 69%, while decisions to withhold or withdraw life support were held in 22.1 and 8.9% of deaths, respectively. The rate of end-of-life decisions was similar in the MICU and the SICU. In no instance was there MV withdrawal during ICU stay. Discharging patients to die at home was observed only in the MICU (10 out of the 20 patients with a withdrawal decision). Two factors were independently associated with WH or WD decisions: a severe and ultimately fatal underlying disease was positively associated with such decisions (OR = 2.4, 95% CI: 1.3–4.36; p = 0.003), while having an independent functional status before the ICU was associated with a decreased rate of physician decisions of WH or WD (OR = 0.32, 95% CI: 0.15–0.67; p = 0.002).

Conclusion

Withholding and withdrawing life support are common in medical and surgical ICUs of a Tunisian hospital. Withholding is more frequent than withdrawing life support. These decisions appear to be effected by functional status and underlying conditions.

Keywords

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