Ethical decision-making in two patients with locked-in syndrome on the intensive care unit

Clinical Ethics 4 (2):98-101 (2009)
Locked-in syndrome (LIS) is one of the most dramatic neurological outcomes and has a profound impact on patients and their families. Most patients have intact cognition and intellectual ability and perception. Communication is possible with eyelid and/or eyeball movement. According to the literature, the wish to die is not an important issue in acute and chronic LIS. This study describes and analyses the ethical decision-making process in two opposite cases of LIS in the intensive care unit. One patient expressed the wish to prolong her life for as long as possible; the other patient asked for deliberate termination of life. Both wishes were honoured. In conclusion, most patients with LIS are competent and intellectually intact. In The Netherlands the autonomy of the patient is respected by law. In respecting this autonomy, medical choices can be different in comparable patients
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DOI 10.1258/ce.2009.009005
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