Hi, it’s Patrik Hutzel from intensivecarehotline.com with another quick tip for families in intensive care.
Yesterday, I had an email from a reader and the reader asked, what is euthanasia in intensive care? What does it look like? And you know, what should a family be looking for if they suspect that the intensive care team wants to hasten death and at the end of the day perform euthanasia.
So let’s just quickly clarify what euthanasia is. Euthanasia is the hastening of death. And in most countries, it’s illegal. The unfortunate reality is though that in intensive care it happens all the time, but it’s not labeled as euthanasia. I mean, I worked in intensive care for over 20 years and unfortunately I’ve seen it many, many times and it’s sort of a standard practice in intensive care, but it’s never being labeled. It’s unfortunately accepted as normal practice because nobody labels it as euthanasia.
So what does it look like in practice? Often the intensive care team keeps talking about withdrawal of treatment because continuing treatment wouldn’t be “in the best interest for a patient in intensive care”. And that they would stop life support and then make a patient “comfortable” and let nature take its course.
Now that’s the wording intensive care teams use, but that’s actually not what’s happening in reality because nature is not necessarily taking its course. In some instances, it does take its course, but in many instances, especially when it comes to euthanasia, death is hastened by withdrawing treatment as well as using opiates such as morphine or fentanyl in high doses and also sedative such as midazolam or versed in high doses to basically end a critically ill patient’s life by stopping their respiratory drive.
So life support is withdrawn, ventilation is removed, and even if they continue to breathe without life support, the morphine, fentanyl or midazolam will inhibit the breathing effort and patients in essence die.
So that’s the most common form of euthanasia that I have seen in intensive care. And it’s very sad and unfortunately, very few health professionals in intensive care challenge it or are probably sometimes not even aware that it’s happening.
So be very cognizant about euthanasia, especially when the intensive care team talks about withdrawing treatment and making a patient “comfortable” and using opiates in high doses or sedatives in very high doses. That in essence end the patient’s life, and remember, euthanasia is illegal and you don’t have to agree to it.
Now, if you have a loved one in intensive care and you’re facing challenges and you need help, go and check out intensivecarehotline.com. Look at our case studies, give us a call on one of the numbers on the top of the website, or simply send us an email to [email protected].
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