Ethical challenges in resuscitation

Spyros D. Mentzelopoulos, Anne Marie Slowther, Zoe Fritz, Claudio Sandroni, Theodoros Xanthos, Clifton Callaway, Gavin D. Perkins, Craig Newgard, Eleni Ischaki, Robert Greif, Erwin Kompanje, Leo Bossaert

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Purpose: A rapidly evolving resuscitation science provides more effective treatments to an aging population with multiple comorbidites. Concurrently, emergency care has become patient-centered. This review aims to describe challenges associated with the application of key principles of bioethics in resuscitation and post-resuscitation care; propose actions to address these challenges; and highlight the need for evidence-based ethics and consensus on ethical principles interpretation. Methods: Following agreement on the article’s outline, subgroups of 2–3 authors provided narrative reviews of ethical issues concerning autonomy and honesty, beneficence/nonmaleficence and dignity, justice, specific practices/circumstances such as family presence during resuscitation, and emergency research. Proposals for addressing ethical challenges were also offered. Results: Respect for patient autonomy can be realized through honest provision of information, shared decision-making, and advance directives/care planning. Essential prerequisites comprise public and specific healthcare professionals’ education, appropriate regulatory provisions, and allocation of adequate resources. Regarding beneficence/nonmaleficence, resuscitation should benefit patients, while avoiding harm from futile interventions; pertinent practice should be based on neurological prognostication and patient/family-reported outcomes. Regarding dignity, aggressive life-sustaining treatments against patients preferences should be avoided. Contrary to the principle of justice, resuscitation quality may be affected by race/income status, age, ethnicity, comorbidity, and location (urban versus rural or country-specific/region-specific). Current evidence supports family presence during resuscitation. Regarding emergency research, autonomy should be respected without hindering scientific progress; furthermore, transparency of research conduct should be promoted and funding increased. Conclusions: Major ethical challenges in resuscitation science need to be addressed through complex/resource-demanding interventions. Such actions require support by ongoing/future research.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)703-716
Number of pages14
JournalIntensive Care Medicine
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 1 2018


  • Beneficence
  • Personal autonomy
  • Resuscitation
  • Social justice

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine


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