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Rev Bras Ter Intensiva. 2011 Dec;23(4):448-54.

End of life in intensive care: family members' acceptance of orthotanasia.

[Article in English, Portuguese]



This study aimed to assess family member acceptance of orthotanasia as related to symptom management, patient preference and the influence of the medical team's communication on therapy.


This was a descriptive one-year study conducted at the adult intensive care unit of the Hospital do Servidor P├║blico Estadual. A structured questionnaire based on the Quality of Dying and Death (QODD 22) instrument and prior informal interviews were used.


Sixty family members were assessed; the mean age was 51.7 + 12.1 years, and 81.7% were female. The patients were hospitalized for a mean of 31 + 26.9 days, and 17.0% of these days were spent in the intensive care unit. Most of the patients had neurological conditions. Most of the patients (53.3%) had discussed their end-of-life care wishes with family members; however, 76.7% of them had not discussed this issue with their doctors (p < 0.00). The family members reported being favorable to orthotanasia in 83.3% of the cases. Most (85.0%) desired the medical team to clearly approach the subject, and 65.0% wished to take part in the quality of end-of-life decision making process. The family members were generally satisfied with information they received from the doctors: 93.3% believed they had received appropriately frequent communications about the clinical conditions; 81.7% were able to clarify their doubts regarding the patient's clinical status; the communication was understood by 83.3% of the respondents; and 80.0% believed that clear and honest information had been provided. Only 43.3% of the respondents wished to be present at the time of their loved ones' deaths. A significant association between family member acceptance of orthotanasia and participation in end-of-life decisions (p = 0.042) was observed.


Most of the respondents were favorable to orthotanasia and wished to participate in end-of-life discussions.


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