Volume 24, Number 2, Summer 2013
The Threshold Moment: Ethical Tensions Surrounding Decision Making on Tracheostomy for Patients in the Intensive Care Unit
With the aging of the general population and the ability of intensivists to support patients using ventilator support, tracheostomy has become a vital tool in the medical management of critically ill patients. While much of the medical literature on tracheostomy has focused on the optimal timing of and indications for performing this procedure, little is written on the ethical tensions that can revolve around decisions by patients, surrogates, and physicians on its use. This article will elucidate the ethical dilemmas that can arise surrounding the use of tracheostomy in critically ill patients and how ethics consultants and committees can approach these cases to allow resolution.
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