Context In some cases, physicians estimate that continuous sedation until death may have a life-shortening effect. The accuracy of these estimations can be questioned.
Aim The aim of this study is to compare two approaches to estimate the potential life-shortening effect of continuous sedation until death.
Methods In 2008, 370 Dutch physicians filled out a questionnaire and reported on their last patient who received continuous sedation until death. The potential life-shortening effect of continuous sedation was estimated through a direct approach (question: Did continuous sedation, according to your estimation, hasten the patient’s death? If yes: by how much time?) and an indirect approach (estimated life expectancy minus duration of sedation). The intrarater agreement between both approaches was determined with a weighted κ.
Results According to the direct approach, sedation might have had a life-shortening effect in 51% of the cases and according to the indirect approach in 84%. The intrarater agreement between both approaches was fair (weighted κ=0.38). In 10% of all cases, the direct approach yielded higher estimates of the extent to which life had been shortened; in 58% of the cases, the indirect approach yielded higher estimates.
Conclusions The results show a discrepancy between different approaches to estimate the potential life-shortening effect of continuous sedation until death.
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