Deciding to terminate treatment: a practical guide for physicians

J Crit Care. 1993 Sep;8(3):177-85. doi: 10.1016/0883-9441(93)90024-f.


Providing house officers and practicing physicians with annotated, concise, practical guidelines for decisions to terminate treatment is the objective of this report. The study selection and data extraction focused on statutes, regulations, court decisions, medicolegal analyses, clinical studies, and position papers addressing termination-of-treatment issues. To foster a systematic approach, we developed a laminated, pocket-sized card containing a series of questions to be asked by any physician confronted with termination-of-treatment decisions. Systematic identification and deliberate assessment of (1) brain death; (2) the nature, extent, cause, prognosis, and reversibility of impairment; (3) the type of treatment to be withheld or withdrawn; (4) the futility of any proposed intervention; (5) the capacity of the patient for health care decision-making; (6) the evidence of patient's wishes; (7) the proper roles of family members, surrogate decision makers, and other health professionals (eg, ethics committees); and (8) applicable policies, ethics, laws, and potential conflicts of interest will enhance efficiency and add value to the decision-making process at the end of life.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Brain Death
  • Clinical Protocols
  • Ethics Committees
  • Ethics Committees, Clinical
  • Family
  • Humans
  • Lawyers
  • Life Support Care*
  • Mental Competency
  • Organizational Policy
  • Prognosis
  • Tissue and Organ Procurement
  • Withholding Treatment