Study: Physicians Often Perform 'Futile' Critical Care

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Care prolonging patient life without any other benefits is common and costly, according to research published in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Researchers surveyed 36 critical care physicians to develop criteria for futile treatment. They then tracked more than 1,100 patients in five intensive care units over three months to determine the frequency of futile critical care.

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According to the guidelines established by the critical care physicians, 11 percent of patients received futile treatment, 1 percent received futile treatment in transition to palliative care and 8.6 percent were probably receiving futile care. Sixty-eight percent of patients receiving futile treatment died before hospital discharge, and the six-month mortality rate for the group as a whole was 85 percent.

The cost of the futile care for the group of patients receiving it at the study hospital was approximately $2.6 million, according to the article.

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