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Withdrawal of Life-Sustaining Treatments in Perceived Devastating Brain Injury: The Key Role of Uncertainty

By Currents Editor posted 02-11-2019 13:52


By Christos Lazaridis


Withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment (WOLST) is the leading proximate cause of death in patients with perceived devastating brain injury (PDBI). There are reasons to believe that a potentially significant proportion of WOLST decisions, in this setting, are premature and guided by a number of assumptions that falsely confer a sense of certainty.


This manuscript proposes that these assumptions face serious challenges, and that we should replace unwarranted certainty with an appreciation for the great degree of multi-dimensional uncertainty involved. The article proceeds by offering a taxonomy of uncertainty in PDBI and explores the key role that uncertainty as a cognitive state, may play into how WOLST decisions are reached.


In order to properly share decision-making with families and surrogates of patients with PDBI, we will have to acknowledge, understand, and be able to communicate the great degree of uncertainty involved.

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