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Terminal care in the intensive care unit 

Terminal care in the intensive care unit
Terminal care in the intensive care unit

Matt Wise

, and Paul Frost

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date: 26 January 2021

In the UK, around 10%–20% of all patients admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU) do not survive while, in the United States, it has been estimated that 22% of all deaths occur in an ICU. Therefore, terminal or palliative care is as important as any of the life-saving interventions that occur in the ICU. The goal of palliative care is to achieve a good death. In the ICU, the switch from care with curative intent to palliation occurs when it becomes obvious that the patient is not responding to treatment. Typically, this is manifest by deteriorating physiology and escalating organ support in the setting of overwhelming disease or injury. It is predominantly expert opinion (consensus amongst treating medical and nursing teams) that determines the point at which the patient is recognized as not responding to treatment and, in fact, dying. This chapter covers the ethical considerations, communication, family disagreement, organ donation, withdrawal of therapies, care after death, and diagnosing death.

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