An Interdisciplinary Ethics Panel Approach to End-of-Life Decision Making for Unbefriended Nursing Home Residents


Howard J. Finger, Cheryl A. Dury, Giorgio R. Sansone, Rani N. Rao, and Nancy Neveloff Dubler


For those with advanced life-limiting illness, the optimization of quality of life and avoidance of nonbeneficial treatments at the end of life are key ethical concerns. This article evaluates the efficacy of an Interdisciplinary Ethics Panel (IEP) approach to decision making at the end of life for unbefriended nursing home residents who lack decisional capacity and have advanced life-limiting illness, through the use of a nine-step algorithm developed for this purpose. We reviewed the outcomes of three quality-of-care phased initiatives conducted in our facility, a large public nursing home in New York City, between June 2016 and February 2020, which indicated that this IEP approach promoted advance-care planning, as palliative measures were endorsed to optimize quality of life for this vulnerable population at the end of life. We also examined another quality-of-care initiative when this IEP approach was applied to end-of-life decision making for nursing home residents who had a surrogate during the COVID-19 pandemic. This application appeared to be beneficial in adding more residents to our Palliative Care Program while it improved rates of advance-care planning. When all of the above findings are considered, we believe this novel IEP approach and algorithm have the potential to be applied elsewhere after appropriate assessment.



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