Guillaume Economos1, Pascale Cavalli2, Thomas Guérin2, Marilene Filbet1, Elise Perceau-Chambard1

1Palliative Care, Hospices Civils de Lyon, France
2Emergency Departement, Centre hospitalier de Roanne, France

Keywords: Terminal care, Quality of health care, Withholding treatment


Objective: To assess appropriateness of end-of-life treatments provided to actively dying patients attending the emergency department of a primary care hospital.

Methods: Retrospective cohort study of patients who died in the emergency department of a French primary care hospital between January 2014 and January 2017. The deceased were identified through the admissions register. Then, electronic medical records were screened for bio-demographic data, data relative to decisions to withhold or withdraw treatments, to diagnosis and to the care provided. Patients were clustered into two categories, actively dying or non-actively dying, using clinical opinion based on their medical records. Appropriateness of care was appraised following French guidelines.

Results: One hundred and forty-six deaths were recorded. Actively dying patients mostly suffered from vascular conditions (29.4%). When compared to the overall sample, they were more likely to have decisions to withhold or withdraw treatments (OR = 5.3 [1.56; 20.7], p-value = 0.003), to have strong opioids (OR = 5.32 [2.1; 13.9], p-value <0.0001), hypnotics (OR = 2.6 [0.95; 8.39], p-value = 0.05), and scopolamine (OR = 2.5 [1.1; 6.13], p-value = 0.03). Moreover, they were less likely to have unbeneficial treatments in terminal conditions, such as resuscitation care (OR = 0.06 [0.001; 0.52], p = 0.002) and antibiotics (OR = 0.42 [0.19; 0.92], p-value = 0.022). There were no differences in rate of hydration, venous access and use of tracheal aspirations.

Conclusions: Overall, actively dying patients were appropriately supported. However, several issues regarding hydration management, drug administration routes, and broncho-pulmonary secretions management remain to be addressed.