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Expanded terminal sedation in end-of-life care
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  • Published on:
    Expanded terminal sedation in end-of-life care (Gilbertson et al. doi:10.1136/jme-2022-108511)
    • Robert G Twycross, Emeritus Clinical Reader in Palliative Medicine University of Oxford

    As a retired palliative care physician, I am puzzled by several aspects of this article. First, authors’ choice of terminology: ‘terminal sedation’ and ‘expanded terminal sedation’. It is more than 20 years since the use of the former began to be discouraged because of perceived ambiguity, and replaced by ‘palliative sedation’ (PS)[1] – as reflected in current professional guidelines.[2] And despite dissenting voices,[3] most clinicians would probably consider ‘expanded terminal sedation’ to be ‘slow euthanasia’.
    PS was used to describe a deliberate switch from escalation of symptom management to a deliberate reduction in a patient’s level of consciousness in order to ease otherwise intolerable refractory suffering in ‘imminently dying’ patients. The sedation varied from light to deep depending on individual need. Some guidelines refer to ‘intermittent’ as well as ‘continuous’ sedation. Recently, because of the lack of clarity in many reports, there’s been a trend towards limiting discussion to ‘deep continuous sedation until death’ (CDSUD) – the most contentious aspect of sedation near the end of life.
    Second, it may be correct that ‘the Doctrine of Double Effect (DDE) continues to shape much of the ethical and legal literature concerning end-of-life care’ (EOLC), but what about the medical literature? Would it surprise the authors if I say that, when a practicing clinician, I never agonized about ‘double effect’? As they noted, DDE was originally formulate...

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    Conflict of Interest:
    None declared.