The ten barriers to appropriate management of patients at the end of their life

Intensive Care Med. 2015 Sep;41(9):1700-2. doi: 10.1007/s00134-015-3712-6. Epub 2015 Mar 7.


The development of ICUs as the final option for seriously ill patients, especially the elderly frail patient at the end of his/her life, has meant that intensivists have increasingly taken on the role of diagnosing the dying. Our society, and even our medical colleagues, do not necessarily understand what we can achieve in ICUs, and even more importantly, what we cannot achieve. The next crucial step for us as individuals, and through our professional bodies, is to engage our society in discussions on our role and encourage debate and discussion, being aware of the controversies that will inevitably result. Birthing in the 1950s was medicalised without discussion with women and their families. In a similar manner, dying has been medicalised in the twenty-first century. It has not been a conspiracy and the use of futile and expensive treatment at the EoL transition is not necessarily anyone's choice. The specialty of intensive care has a particularly important role in facilitating discussions with our society in order to define different ways of managing dying.

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units*
  • Terminal Care / standards*