Beyond winning: mediation, conflict resolution, and non-rational sources of conflict in the ICU

Crit Care. 2012 Jun 19;16(3):308. doi: 10.1186/CC11141.


A 55-year-old woman with widely metastatic breast cancer was admitted to your intensive care unit (ICU) because of a decreased level of consciousness and respiratory failure. She had documented cerebral and meningeal metastases that were progressing despite chemotherapy and radiotherapy. The admitting physician met with her family and suggested a palliative approach, making them very upset. The family insisted that the team 'do everything' and now they refuse to discuss any change in the plan of treatment. They maintain a constant presence at the bedside, taking notes and questioning everyone who enters the room. They have threatened legal action toward several of the nursing staff, and hospital security has been called twice because of shouting matches between family and staff members. As the physician taking over care for the ICU, you would like to resolve this conflict.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Breast Neoplasms / complications
  • Breast Neoplasms / therapy
  • Decision Making
  • Emotions
  • Family / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units*
  • Medical Staff, Hospital / psychology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Negotiating*
  • Palliative Care / psychology*
  • Professional-Family Relations*