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HOME > Acute Crit Care > Volume 20(1); 2005 > Article
Original Article Analysis of Cases Requested to the Ethics Committee of an University Hospital for the Discontinuation of Therapy
Jeong Min Kang, Younsuck Koh

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Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, Department of Internal Medicine, Asan Medical Center, University of Ulsan College of Medicine, Seoul, Korea.

A hospital ethics committee (HEC) handles ethics problems in a hospital and mediates conflicts between patients and caregivers. The role of HEC on treatment withdrawal has increased after Boramae-hospital's case on 1997 in Korea. This study is an analysis of cases referred to the HEC of Asan Medical Center for the discontinuation of patient therapy. METHODS: The conference records of the HEC from January 1998 to December 2003 and the relevant patient charts were reviewed retrospectively. RESULTS: Twenty-seven cases related to treatment withdrawal were referred to the HEC during the study period. Based on the number of admitted ICU patients during the study period, the case request rate was 0.05%. The bimodal distribution of the cases in terms of age was neonate, 13 (48%); infant, 6 (22%); adult, 8 (30%). The major causes of treatment withdrawal were futile management, financial difficulty and patient suffering. The HEC recommended the continuation of treatment in 7 cases (25.9%); treatment withdrawal in 11 (40.7%); treatment withholding in 8 (29.6%); transfer to another hospital in one case (3.8%). Of the seven recommendations for treatment continuation, only three were accepted by their families. These three patients were eventually discharged alive. Treatment was withdrawn within one week in all eleven cases recommended for that by the HEC. Treatment was withheld in seven of those eight such recommended cases. CONCLUSIONS: The case referral rate was low in the studied hospital. In all cases, the patients' families requested the case to the HEC. Although the committee's recommendations to withhold or withdraw the treatment were followed by the families, the recommendation to continue therapy was often refused.

ACC : Acute and Critical Care