Purpose: Whether the quality of the ethical climate in the intensive care unit (ICU) improves the identification of patients receiving excessive care and affects patient outcomes is unknown. Methods: In this prospective observational study, perceptions of excessive care (PECs) by clinicians working in 68 ICUs in Europe and the USA were collected daily during a 28-day period. The quality of the ethical climate in the ICUs was assessed via a validated questionnaire. We compared the combined endpoint (death, not at home or poor quality of life at 1 year) of patients with PECs and the time from PECs until written treatment-limitation decisions (TLDs) and death across the four climates defined via cluster analysis. Results: Of the 4747 eligible clinicians, 2992 (63%) evaluated the ethical climate in their ICU. Of the 321 and 623 patients not admitted for monitoring only in ICUs with a good (n = 12, 18%) and poor (n = 24, 35%) climate, 36 (11%) and 74 (12%), respectively were identified with PECs by at least two clinicians. Of the 35 and 71 identified patients with an available combined endpoint, 100% (95% CI 90.0–1.00) and 85.9% (75.4–92.0) (P = 0.02) attained that endpoint. The risk of death (HR 1.88, 95% CI 1.20–2.92) or receiving a written TLD (HR 2.32, CI 1.11–4.85) in patients with PECs by at least two clinicians was higher in ICUs with a good climate than in those with a poor one. The differences between ICUs with an average climate, with (n = 12, 18%) or without (n = 20, 29%) nursing involvement at the end of life, and ICUs with a poor climate were less obvious but still in favour of the former. Conclusion: Enhancing the quality of the ethical climate in the ICU may improve both the identification of patients receiving excessive care and the decision-making process at the end of life.
- Ethical climate
- Interdisciplinary collaboration
- Patient outcomes
- Perceived excessive care
- Treatment-limitation decisions
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine