Letters Section Editor: Stephen J. Lurie,
MD, PhD, Senior Editor.
To the Editor: Dr Sprung and colleagues1 stated that "active shortening of the dying process"
was rare in their sample and affected only 2% of patients who died after life-sustaining
treatment was withheld or withdrawn.
A recent European survey,2 on the
other hand, has indicated that 40% of ICU physicians admitted that they sometimes
administered drugs to hasten death. Likewise, physicians at neonatal ICUs
in 2 European countries admitted with significant frequency (in France, 73%
of respondents; in the Netherlands, 47%) that they had decided to administer
drugs with the purpose of ending the patient's life.3 In
Italy, a survey found that the deliberate use of lethal doses of drugs was
admitted by about 4% of ICU physicians and was considered ethically acceptable
by about 16%.4
Giannini A. End-of-Life Practices in European Intensive Care UnitsEnd-of-Life Practices in European Intensive Care Units. JAMA. 2003;290(22):2938-2940. doi:10.1001/jama.290.22.2938-a