Dying in intensive care units of India: Commentaries on policies and position papers on palliative and end-of-life care☆,☆☆

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Abstract

Purpose:

This study critically examines the available policy guidelines on integration of palliative and end-of-life care in Indian intensive care units to appraise their congruence with Indian reality.

Materials and methods:

Six position statements and guidelines issued by the Indian Society for Critical Care Medicine and the Indian Association of Palliative Care from 2005 till 2015 were examined. The present study reflects upon the recommendations suggested by these texts.

Result:

Although the policy documents conform to the universally set norms of introducing palliative and end-of-life care in intensive care units, they hardly suit Indian reality. The study illustrates local complexities that are not addressed by the policy documents. This include difficulties faced by intensivists and physicians in arriving at a consensus decision, challenges in death prognostication, hurdles in providing compassionate care, providing “culture-specific” religious and spiritual care, barriers in effective communication, limitations of documenting end-of-life decisions, and ambiguities in defining modalities of palliative care. Moreover, the policy documents largely dismiss special needs of elderly patients.

Conclusion:

The article suggests the need to reexamine policies in terms of their attainability and congruence with Indian reality.

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