Death of terminally ill patients on a stretcher in the emergency department: a French speciality?

Tardy, B.; Venet, C.; Zeni, F.; Berthet, O.; Viallon, A.; Lemaire, F.; Bertrand, J.
November 2002
Intensive Care Medicine;Nov2002, Vol. 28 Issue 11, p1625
Academic Journal
Objectives. To determine the frequency, modalities of admission and management of terminally ill patients who died on a stretcher in an emergency department (ED). Design and setting. Retrospective study in an ED of a university hospital. Methods. Current place of residence, modalities of admission in ED, mortality probability scores and type of management were extracted for each patient in the terminal stage of chronic disease who died on a stretcher in our ED during a 3year period. Results. Of 159 deaths observed in the ED, 56 (35%) concerned terminally ill patients. The illness was a malignancy in 22 cases, a neurological disease in 22 cases and a cardiopulmonary disease in 12 cases. Most of the patients were referred by their regular doctor. Seventy-two percent of the malignancy patients were living at home, 55% of the neurological patients came from nursing facilities and 58% of the cardio-respiratory patients came from the hospital. In 73%, 83% and 23% of the patients with malignancy, cardiopulmonary and neurological diseases, respectively, admission was related to the evolution of the chronic disease. Severity of illness on admission was similar whatever the disease. Request for compassionate end-of-life care was expressed in only 12.5%. At the ED, 91% of patients with neurological diseases received palliative support care. Supportive therapy was undertaken in one third of patients with malignancy or cardiopulmonary disease. Conclusion.An ED may be used as a place for dying for some terminally ill patients. This could be related to the legal opposition to withdrawal or withholding of life-support therapies as well as the absence of guidelines from scientific bodies.


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