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VOLUME 28 , ISSUE 5 ( May, 2024 ) > List of Articles

Original Article

Semiotics of ICU Physicians’ Views on End-of-life Care and Quality of Dying in a Critical Care Setting: A Qualitative Study

Shivakumar Iyer, Rutula N Sonawane, Jignesh Shah, Naveen Salins

Keywords : End-of-life care, Good death, Intensive care unit, Physician, Quality of dying, Views

Citation Information : Iyer S, Sonawane RN, Shah J, Salins N. Semiotics of ICU Physicians’ Views on End-of-life Care and Quality of Dying in a Critical Care Setting: A Qualitative Study. Indian J Crit Care Med 2024; 28 (5):424-435.

DOI: 10.5005/jp-journals-10071-24696

License: CC BY-NC 4.0

Published Online: 30-04-2024

Copyright Statement:  Copyright © 2024; The Author(s).


Background and aim: While intensive care unit (ICU) mortality rates in India are higher when compared to countries with more resources, fewer patients with clinically futile conditions are subjected to limitation of life-sustaining treatments or given access to palliative care. Although a few surveys and audits have been conducted exploring this phenomenon, the qualitative perspectives of ICU physicians regarding end-of-life care (EOLC) and the quality of dying are yet to be explored. Methods: There are 22 eligible consultant-level ICU physicians working in multidisciplinary ICUs were purposively recruited and interviewed. The study data was analyzed using reflexive thematic analysis (RTA) with a critical realist perspective, and the study findings were interpreted using the lens of the semiotic theory that facilitated the development of themes. Results: About four themes were generated. Intensive care unit physicians perceived the quality of dying as respecting patients’ and families’ choices, fulfilling their needs, providing continued care beyond death, and ensuring family satisfaction. To achieve this, the EOLC process must encompass timely decision-making, communication, treatment guidelines, visitation rights, and trust-building. The contextual challenges were legal concerns, decision-making complexities, cost-related issues, and managing expectations. To improve care, ICU physicians suggested amplifying patient and family voices, building therapeutic relationships, mitigating conflicts, enhancing palliative care services, and training ICU providers in EOLC. Conclusion: Effective management of critically ill patients with life-limiting illnesses in ICUs requires a holistic approach that considers the complex interplay between the EOLC process, its desired outcome, the quality of dying, care context, and the process of meaning-making by ICU physicians.

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