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Editorials |

Caring Well for the Families of Our Patients

Ira Byock, MD
Author and Funding Information

Lebanon, NH

Correspondence to: Ira Byock, MD, Director of Palliative Medicine, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, One Medical Center Dr, Lebanon, NH 03756; e-mail: Ibyock@aol.com



Chest. 2007;132(5):1420-1422. doi:10.1378/chest.07-1333
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In this issue of CHEST (see page 1425), Wall and associates report that family members of patients who died in the ICU rated satisfaction with care higher than families of survivors.1 At first glance, this seems paradoxical. The prime directive for critical care is to save lives, and while we acknowledge often struggling against long odds, a patient’s death can feel like a failure to all involved.

To investigate this phenomenon, the researchers surveyed family members 4 to 8 weeks after a patient’s death or discharge from the ICU using a modified and validated version of the Family Satisfaction with ICU Care Survey.2 Ordinal regression revealed that decedents’ families were more satisfied with specific aspects of care, such as being included in decision making, communication with professionals, consideration of their family’s needs, and the emotional support, respect, and compassion they received. In fact, these findings are consistent with a series of studies3 to emerge from efforts to integrate key principles and best practices of palliative medicine within critical care.

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