Forgoing life-sustaining treatments: comparison of attitudes between Israeli and North American intensive care healthcare professionals

Isr Med Assoc J. 2003 Nov;5(11):770-4.


Background: Physicians' decisions regarding provision of life-sustaining treatment may be influenced considerably by non-medical variables.

Objectives: To examine physicians' attitudes towards end-of-life decisions in Israel, comparing them to those found in the United States.

Methods: A survey was conducted among members of the Israel Society of Critical Care Medicine using a questionnaire analogous to that used in a similar study in the USA.

Results: Forty-three physicians (45%) responded, the majority of whom hold responsibility for withholding or withdrawing life-sustaining treatments. Preservation of life was considered the most important factor by 31 responders (72%). The quality of life as viewed by the patient was generally considered less important than the quality of life as viewed by the physician. Twenty-one responders (49%) considered withholding treatment more acceptable than withdrawing it. The main factors for decisions to withhold or withdraw therapy were a very low probability of survival of hospitalization, an irreversible acute disorder, and prior existence of chronic disorders. An almost similar percent of physicians (93% for Israel and 94% for the U.S.) apply Do Not Resuscitate orders in their intensive care units, but much less (28% vs. 95%) actually discuss these orders with the families of their patients.

Conclusions: Critical care physicians in Israel place similar emphasis on the value of life as their U.S. counterparts and assign DNR orders with an incidence equaling that of the U.S. They differ from their U.S. counterparts in that they confer less significance to the will of the patient, and do not consult as much with families of patients regarding DNR orders.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Critical Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • Cross-Cultural Comparison*
  • Decision Making
  • Female
  • Health Care Surveys
  • Humans
  • Israel
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • North America
  • Patient Participation / statistics & numerical data
  • Physician's Role
  • Professional-Family Relations
  • Resuscitation Orders
  • Terminal Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • Withholding Treatment / statistics & numerical data*