Terminal Withdrawal of Mechanical Ventilation: A Hospice Perspective for the Intensivist

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The intensive care unit (ICU) and hospice inpatient unit (IPU) environments differ in many ways. Although both endeavor to provide the best care possible for their patients, the day-to-day goals of these environments are almost antithetical. Similarly, the experiences and expertise of the staff differ. When performing a similar clinical task, it may be addressed in different ways because each group is engrained in their primary day-to-day focus. Terminal withdrawal of mechanical ventilation is a procedure that is performed in both ICUs and some hospice IPUs. Previous examinations of this subject have been based largely upon the correlative background, practices, and perceptions of the ICU prescriber. The purpose of this review is to examine how the manner in which this procedure is performed in the hospice environment may differ in ways that the intensivist can incorporate into their own plan of care, or better appreciate when making the decision to remove mechanical ventilation in the critical care unit or transfer the patient to a hospice environment for the procedure to be completed.

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