Prognostication of patients in coma after cardiac arrest: public perspectives.

Resuscitation 169:4-10 (2021)
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Aim: To elicit preferences for prognostic information, attitudes towards withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment (WLST) and perspectives on acceptable quality of life after post-anoxic coma within the adult general population of Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and the United States of America. Methods: A web-based survey, consisting of questions on respondent characteristics, perspectives on quality of life, communication of prognostic information, and withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment, was taken by adult respondents recruited from four countries. Statistical analysis included descriptive analysis and chi2-tests for dierences between countries. Results: In total, 2012 respondents completed the survey. In each country, at least 84% indicated they would prefer to receive early prognostic information. If a poor outcome was predicted with some uncertainty, 37-54% of the respondents indicated that WLST was not to be allowed. A conscious state with severe physical and cognitive impairments was perceived as acceptable quality of life by 17–44% of the respondents. Clear differences between countries exist, including respondents from the U.S. being more likely to allow WLST than respondents from Germany (OR = 1.99, p < 0.001) or the Netherlands (OR = 1.74, p < 0.001) and preferring to stay alive in a conscious state with severe physical and cognitive impairments more than respondents from Italy (OR = 3.76, p < 0.001), Germany (OR = 2.21, p < 0.001), or the Netherlands (OR = 2.39, p < 0.001). Conclusions: Over one-third of the respondents considered WLST unacceptable when there is any remaining prognostic uncertainty. Respondents had a more positive perspective on acceptable quality of life after coma than what is currently considered acceptable in medical literature. This indicates a need for a closer look at the practice of WLST based on prognostic information, to ensure responsible use of novel prognostic tests.

Author Profiles

Mayli Mertens
University of Antwerp
Marianne Boenink
University of Twente


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