What are the ethical questions raised by the integration of intensive care into advance care planning?
A major goal of intensive care units (ICUs) is to offer optimal management, but for many patients admitted to the ICU, they are unlikely to yield any lasting benefit. In this context, the ICU physician remains a key intermediary, particularly when a decision regarding possible limitation or withdrawal of life-sustaining therapy becomes necessary. The possibility of admission to the ICU, and the type of care the patient would like to receive there, should be integrated into the healthcare project in agreement with the patient, regardless of the stage of disease that the patient suffers from. These dispositions should be recorded in the patient’s file, and should respect the progressive nature of both the disease itself, and the discussions necessary in such complex situations. The ICU physician can serve as a valuable consultant for the treating physician, in particular to guide patient choices when formalizing their healthcare preferences in the form of advance care planning (ACP) or advance directives (AD). Ideally, the best time to address this issue is before the patient’s clinical situation deteriorates towards an acute emergency, and providing complete and transparent information to inform the patient’s choices.