[Treatment of patients with thromboses of the basilar artery and locked-in syndrome. An ethical dilemma]

Nervenarzt. 1997 Aug;68(8):653-8. doi: 10.1007/s001150050176.
[Article in German]


Decisions regarding the extent of treatment of severely ill patients can be an ethical dilemma when life-prolonging intensive care contradicts the goal of avoiding unnecessary suffering on the part of the patient. Here we present the results of a written survey of physicians on neurological intensive care units in Germany regarding the treatment of patients with basilar artery thrombosis and locked-in syndrome. 52% of the 93 physicians who replied advocated not treating severe infections with antibiotics, 38% were in favor of stopping intensive care. In contrast, 55% recommended intubating the patient in the presence of swallowing disturbances and imminent aspiration. 58% were in favor of discussing these problems in detail with the patient, and 87% advocated discussing them with relatives. Nearly all physicians (97%) recommended using adequate amounts of opiates and benzodiazepines. In very rare cases, 99% would agree to the use of passive euthanasia and 19% to active euthanasia. These findings illustrate the current disagreement on some of the important treatment decisions among physicians on neurological intensive care units. An open exchange of views on these questions could facilitate the appropriate consideration of ethical matters in the treatment of these patients.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Basilar Artery*
  • Contraindications
  • Critical Care*
  • Ethics, Medical*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intracranial Embolism and Thrombosis / psychology
  • Intracranial Embolism and Thrombosis / therapy*
  • Life Support Care
  • Male
  • Medical Futility
  • Middle Aged
  • Quadriplegia / psychology
  • Quadriplegia / therapy*
  • Thrombolytic Therapy / psychology
  • Vertebrobasilar Insufficiency / psychology
  • Vertebrobasilar Insufficiency / therapy*