Private attending physician status and the withdrawal of life-sustaining interventions in a medical intensive care unit population

Crit Care Med. 1996 Jun;24(6):968-75. doi: 10.1097/00003246-199606000-00016.

Abstract

Objective: To assess the influence of private attending physician status on the withdrawal of life-sustaining interventions among patients dying within a medical intensive care unit (ICU).

Design: Retrospective cohort analysis.

Setting: An academic tertiary care center.

Patients: One hundred fifty-nine consecutive patient deaths occurring in the medical ICU during a 12-month period.

Interventions: None.

Measurements and main results: Withdrawal of life-sustaining interventions (i.e., mechanical ventilation, dialysis, and/or vasopressors), duration of mechanical ventilation, length of intensive care unit stay, medical care costs, and patient charges were recorded. Life sustaining interventions were actively withdrawn from 69 (43.4%) patients prior to death. Patients without a private attending physician were significantly more likely to undergo the withdrawal of life-sustaining interventions compared with patients having a private attending physician (odds ratio = 2.5; 95% confidence interval = 1.8, 3.6, respectively; p = .005). A correlation was found between the possession of private health insurance and private attending physician status (r2 = .39, p < .001). Multiple logistic regression analysis was subsequently used to control for demographic factors and severity of illness. Three independent predictors for the withdrawal of life-sustaining interventions were identified in this patient cohort (p < .05) having a planned therapeutic trial of life-sustaining interventions outlined in the medical record (adjusted odds ratio 9.4; 95% confidence interval = 5.6 to 15.6; p < .001); lack of a private attending physician (adjusted odds ratio = 4.4; 95% confidence interval = 2.9 to 6.5; p < .001); and the presence of clearly defined advance directives regarding patient preferences for medical care (adjusted odds ratio = 3.6; 95% confidence interval = 2.3 to 5.7; p. = .005). Patients with private attending physicians had significantly greater medical care costs and medical care charges compared with patients without a private attending physician.

Conclusion: Among patients dying within a medical ICU, those patients without a private attending physician are more likely to undergo the active withdrawal of life-sustaining interventions.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • APACHE
  • Aged
  • Cohort Studies
  • Ethics, Medical
  • Euthanasia, Passive*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Insurance, Health*
  • Intensive Care Units / economics
  • Length of Stay / economics
  • Life Support Systems
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Regression Analysis
  • Resuscitation Orders*
  • Retrospective Studies