Spynos D. Mentzelopoulos, Leo Bossaert, Violetta Raffay, Helen Askitopoulou, Gavin D. Perkins, Robert Greif, Kirstie Haywood, Patrick Van de Voorde, Theodoros Xanthos
Europe is a patchwork of 47 countries with legal, cultural, religious, and economic differences. A prior study suggested variation in ethical resuscitation/end-of-life practices across Europe. This study aimed to determine whether this variation has evolved, and whether the application of ethical practices is associated with emergency care organisation.
A questionnaire covering four domains of resuscitation ethics was developed based on consensus: (A) Approaches to end-of-life care and family presence during cardiopulmonary resuscitation; (B) Determinants of access to best resuscitation and post-resuscitation care; (C) Diagnosis of death and organ donation (D) Emergency care organisation. The questionnaire was sent to representatives of 32 countries. Responses to 4-choice or 2-choice questions pertained to local legislation and common practice. Positive responses were graded by 1 and negative responses by 0; grades were reconfirmed/corrected by respondents from 31/32 countries (97%). For each resuscitation/end-of-life practice a subcomponent score was calculated by grades’ summation. Subcomponent scores’ summation resulted in domain total scores.
Data from 31 countries were analysed. Domains A, B, and D total scores exhibited substantial variation (respective total score ranges, 1–41, 0–19 and 9–32), suggesting variable interpretation and application of bioethical principles, and particularly of autonomy. Linear regression revealed a significant association between domain A and D total scores (adjusted r2?=?0.42, P?<?0.001).
According to key experts, ethical practices and emergency care still vary across Europe. There is need for harmonised legislation, and improved, education-based interpretation/application of bioethical principles. Better application of ethical practices may be associated with improved emergency care organisation.