Clinical ethics consultations significantly reduce ICU length of stay

A study published in Critical Care Medicine examined the outcomes associated with clinical ethics consultation — an intervention for supporting patients, family and staff during ethically challenging situations — within intensive care units.

Researchers searched Medline, PubMed, Cochrane Central, Embase, PsycInfo, and Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature from 1984 to May 2017. Two reviewers independently screened 3,970 abstracts and reviewed 325 full-text articles, of which 16 met all-eligibility criteria.

The study shows clinical ethics consultations in the ICU were associated with positive user experience. Consensus for a clinical decision was achieved more frequently with clinical ethics consultation. Additionally, the consultations were associated with lower resource utilization, including significantly decreased length of stay in the ICU.

"In particular, clinical ethics consultation decreased ICU length of stay and increased family and healthcare provider satisfaction," study authors wrote. However, they also noted, "using outcome measures as the primary endpoint may not reflect the original intent of the clinical ethics consultation service."

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