Limitation of life-sustaining treatment and patient involvement in decision-making: a retrospective study of a Danish COVID-19 patient cohort

Hanne Irene Jensen, Sevim Ozden, Gitte Schultz Kristensen, Mihnaz Azizi, Siri Aas Smedemark, Christian Backer Mogensen

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BACKGROUND: The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and the risk of an extensive overload of the healthcare systems have elucidated the need to make decisions on the level of life-sustaining treatment for patients requiring hospitalisation. The purpose of the study was to investigate the proportion and characteristics of COVID-19 patients with limitation of life-sustaining treatment decisions and the degree of patient involvement in the decisions.

METHODS: A retrospective observational descriptive study was conducted in three Danish regional hospitals, looking at all patients ≥ 18 years of age admitted in 2020 with COVID-19 as the primary diagnosis. Lists of hospitalised patients admitted due to COVID-19 were extracted. The data registration included age, gender, comorbidities, including mental state, body mass index, frailty, recent hospital admissions, COVID-19 life-sustaining treatment, ICU admission, decisions on limitations of life-sustaining treatment before and during current hospitalisation, hospital length of stay, and hospital mortality.

RESULTS: A total of 476 patients were included. For 7% (33/476), a decision about limitation of life-sustaining treatment had been made prior to hospital admission. At the time of admission, one or more limitations of life-sustaining treatment were registered for 16% (75/476) of patients. During the admission, limitation decisions were made for an additional 11 patients, totaling 18% (86/476). For 40% (34/86), the decisions were either made by or discussed with the patient. The decisions not made by patients were made by physicians. For 36% (31/86), no information was disclosed about patient involvement.

CONCLUSIONS: Life-sustaining treatment limitation decisions were made for 18% of a COVID-19 patient cohort. Hereof, more than a third of the decisions had been made before hospital admission. Many records lacked information on patient involvement in the decisions.

Original languageEnglish
Article number173
JournalScandinavian Journal of Trauma, Resuscitation and Emergency Medicine
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - 20. Dec 2021


  • COVID-19
  • End-of-life
  • Life-sustaining treatment
  • Patient involvement
  • Shared decision-making


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