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Invited Commentary
November 11, 2013

Futile Treatments in Intensive Care Units

Author Affiliations
  • 1Department of Global Health and Social Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts
  • 2Department of Anaesthesia, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts
  • 3Program on Ethics and Decision Making in Critical Illness, Department of Critical Care Medicine, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
JAMA Intern Med. 2013;173(20):1894-1895. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2013.7098

The provision of treatments that are perceived to be futile is a major problem in the intensive care unit (ICU), leading to burdens for patients and families, as well as moral distress for caregivers. In this issue of JAMA Internal Medicine, Huynh and colleagues1 report on the perceptions of intensive care physicians about treatment perceived to be futile in 5 intensive care units at an academic health care system. They found that the physicians perceived that the treatment that they are providing is futile or probably futile up to 20% of the time. During a 3-month period, the cost of treatment perceived to be futile was estimated at $2.6 million.

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