Worldwide end-of-life practice for patients in ICUs

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Abstract

Purpose of review

Published data and practice recommendations on end-of-life (EOL) generally reflect Western practice frameworks. Understanding worldwide practices is important because improving economic conditions are promoting rapid expansion of intensive care services in many previously disadvantaged regions, and increasing migration has promoted a new cultural diversity previously predominantly unicultural societies. This review explores current knowledge of similarities and differences in EOL practice between regions and possible causes and implications of these differences.

Recent findings

Recent observational and survey data shows a marked variability in the practice of withholding and withdrawing life sustaining therapy worldwide. Some evidence supports the view that culture, religion, and socioeconomic factors influence EOL practice, and individually or together account for differences observed. There are also likely to be commonly desired values and expectations for EOL practice, and recent attempts at establishing where worldwide consensus may lie have improved our understanding of shared values and practices.

Summary

Awareness of differences, understanding their likely complex causes, and using this knowledge to inform individualized care at EOL is likely to improve the quality of care for patients. Further research should clarify the causes of EOL practice variability, monitor trends, and objectively evaluate the quality of EOL practice worldwide.

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