Article Abstract

What are the ethical aspects surrounding the collegial decisional process in limiting and withdrawing treatment in intensive care?

Authors: Jean-Pierre Quenot, Fiona Ecarnot, Nicolas Meunier-Beillard, Auguste Dargent, Audrey Large, Pascal Andreu, Jean-Philippe Rigaud


The decision to limit or withdraw life-support treatment is an integral part of the job of a physician working in the intensive care unit, and of the approach to care. However, this decision is influenced by a number of factors. It is widely accepted that a medical decision that will ultimate lead to end-of-life in the ICU must be shared between all those involved in the care process, and should give precedence to the patient’s wishes (either directly expressed by the patient or in written form, such as advance directives), and taking into account the opinion of the patient’s family, including the surrogate if the patient is no longer capable of expressing themselves. A number of questions still remain unanswered regarding how decisions to limit or withdraw treatment are taken in daily practice, especially when this decision can be anticipated. We discuss here the collegial procedure for decision-making, in particular in the context of recent French legislation on end-of-life issues. We describe how collegial decision-making procedures should be carried out, and what points are covered in shared discussions regarding decisions to limit or withdraw life-sustaining therapies.