Ethical issues in withholding and withdrawing life-prolonging medical treatment in the ICU

Margot Heaney, Carole Foot, William D. Freeman, John Fraser

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

4 Scopus citations


Many individuals suffering from acute or progressive neurologic problems are managed in intensive care units. The capacity for these patients to exert autonomy regarding their own treatment is frequently compromised. Disease processes may impair consciousness and lucidity. Similarly, this may result from drugs, most frequently sedatives and analgesics that are necessitated by the treatments they are receiving, such as mechanical ventilation. This article will address the ethical and legal issues surrounding withdrawal of therapy, as they pertain to patients managed in intensive care units. Contemporary principles guiding clinicians' decision making will be reviewed, followed by concerns and issues regarding common sources of conflict and misconception between patients, their families and healthcare professionals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)277-283
Number of pages7
JournalCurrent Anaesthesia and Critical Care
Issue number5-6
StatePublished - 2007



  • Ethics
  • Futility
  • Intensive care
  • Withdrawal of care

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine
  • Psychology(all)

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