Many, if not most, ethics consults involve conflicts over withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment at the end of a patient’s life. Yet families are likely to be quite confused by commonly used terms such as “futile” and “potentially inappropriate.”
Researchers found inconsistencies in the way ethics consult volume was reported, which made estimates of growth over time inaccurate. These investigators created a methodology to allow many more factors to be weighed, which could lead to a more accurate estimate of how many consults ethics services should be performing.
Ethicists are seeing increasing numbers of consults involving extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO), the most aggressive life-sustaining technology available. With ECMO, which is currently offered by about 250 U.S. hospitals, some patients are saved who would otherwise die.