End-of-life models and emergency department care

Acad Emerg Med. 2004 Jan;11(1):79-86. doi: 10.1197/j.aem.2003.07.019.


Many people die in emergency departments (EDs) across the United States from sudden illnesses or injuries, an exacerbation of a chronic disease, or a terminal illness. Frequently, patients and families come to the ED seeking lifesaving or life-prolonging treatment. In addition, the ED is a place of transition-patients usually are transferred to an inpatient unit, transferred to another hospital, or discharged home. Rarely are patients supposed to remain in the ED. Currently, there is an increasing amount of literature related to end-of-life care. However, these end-of-life care models are based on chronic disease trajectories and have difficulty accommodating sudden-death trajectories common in the ED. There is very little information about end-of-life care in the ED. This article explores ED culture and characteristics, and examines the applicability of current end-of-life care models.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease / mortality
  • Acute Disease / therapy*
  • Attitude to Death
  • Emergency Medicine / education
  • Emergency Medicine / organization & administration*
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / organization & administration*
  • Hospice Care / organization & administration
  • Humans
  • Life Support Care / organization & administration
  • Models, Organizational*
  • Organizational Culture
  • Palliative Care / organization & administration
  • Terminal Care / methods
  • Terminal Care / organization & administration*