End-of-life decision-making and quality of ICU performance: An observational study in 84 Italian units

Guido Bertolini, Simona Boffelli, Paolo Malacarne, Mario Peta, Mariano Marchesi, Camillo Barbisan, Stefano Tomelleri, Simonetta Spada, Roberto Satolli, Bruno Gridelli, Ivo Lizzola, Davide Mazzon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: To appraise the end-of-life decision-making in several intensive care units (ICUs) and to evaluate the association between the average inclination to limit treatment and overall survival at ICU level. Design: Prospective, multicenter, observational study, lasting 12 months. Setting: Eighty-four Italian, adult ICUs. Patients: Consecutive patients (3,793) who died in ICU or were discharged in terminal condition, in 2005. Measurements: Data collection included patient description, treatment limitation and decision-makers, involvement of patients and relatives in the decision, and organ donation. A logistic regression model was used to identify predictors of treatment limitation and develop a measure of the inclination to limit treatment for each ICU. This was compared with the standardized mortality ratio, an index of the overall performance of the unit. Results: Treatment limitation preceded 62% of deaths. In 25% of cases, nurses were involved in the decision. Half the limitations were do-not-resuscitate orders, with the remaining half almost equally split between withholding and withdrawing treatment. Units less inclined to limit treatments (odds ratio

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1495-1504
Number of pages10
JournalIntensive Care Medicine
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2010


  • Critically ill
  • Decision-making
  • End-of-life
  • Ethics
  • Intensive care units

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine


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