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Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2011 Mar;165(3):211-5. doi: 10.1001/archpediatrics.2011.4.

The window of opportunity for treatment withdrawal.

Author information

1
Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics, University of Oxford, Littlegate House, St Ebbes, Oxford, England. dominic.wilkinson@adelaide.edu.au

Abstract

Physicians sometimes refer to a "window of opportunity" for withdrawing life-sustaining treatment in patients with acute severe brain injury. There is a period of critical illness and physiological instability when treatment withdrawal is likely to be followed by death but prognosis is uncertain. If decisions are delayed, greater prognostic certainty can be achieved, but with the risk that the patient is no longer dependent on life support and survives with very severe disability. In this article I draw on the example of birth asphyxia and highlight the role that the window of opportunity sometimes plays in decisions about life-sustaining treatment in intensive care. I outline the potential arguments in favor of and against taking the window into account. I argue that it is, at least sometimes, ethical and appropriate for physicians and parents to be influenced by the window of opportunity in their decisions about life-sustaining treatment.

PMID:
21383270
DOI:
10.1001/archpediatrics.2011.4
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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