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Intensive Care Med. 2011 Aug;37(8):1290-6. doi: 10.1007/s00134-011-2269-2. Epub 2011 Jun 10.

End-of-life attitudes of intensive care physicians in Poland: results of a national survey.

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  • 1Department of Anaesthesiology and Intensive Therapy, Wroclaw Medical University, Borowska St. 213, 50-556 Wroclaw, Poland.



This study was designed to assess the ethical attitudes and practices of intensive care physicians regarding life-sustaining treatment in intensive care units (ICUs) in Poland.


A questionnaire was distributed to intensive care physicians taking part in a national medical congress. Participation in the study was voluntary and anonymous.


A total of 400 questionnaires were distributed, of which 217 (54%) were returned completed. Almost all respondents (93%) reported having withheld therapy, and 75% of respondents reported withdrawing therapy. Physicians aged 40 years and over who had no religious affiliation more frequently reported withholding treatment. Only 5% of physicians reported deliberately administering drugs until death ensued. Respondents from large hospitals (more than 400 beds) more easily accepted foregoing life-sustaining therapy in ICU patients. In clinical scenario in which the family demanded the maximum available treatment, physicians reported that they were considerably influenced to modify decisions concerning life-sustaining therapy.


The ethical attitudes of intensive care physicians regarding end-of-life decisions are similar to the opinion presented in other European survey studies. The practice of withholding and withdrawing therapy in ICU patients is common in Poland. Actively shortening life is considered unacceptable. The request of the family even without legal consultation can influence physicians' decisions.

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