OBJECTIVES: Withholding and withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment by physicians is influenced by a variety of factors; the role of physicians' personal preferences for life-sustaining treatments has not previously been explored. We sought to examine the relationship between personal preferences for life-sustaining treatment and medical decision making among pediatric intensivists. DESIGN: Cross-sectional national anonymous mail survey. SUBJECTS: All board-certified/eligible pediatric intensivists identified by the American Medical Association Masterfile. INTERVENTIONS: None. MEASUREMENTS AND MAIN RESULTS: A total of 471 (30%) surveys were returned. A Personal Preference Score was calculated from responses to personal-preference questions for life-sustaining treatments adapted from "Your Life, Your Choices," by Pearlman et al. Physicians were asked to consider the "acceptability" of offering and recommending treatment options involving life-sustaining treatments in a hypothetical scenario of a 2-yr old with a high cervical spinal-cord transection. Logistic regression controlling for sociodemographic characteristics found significant relationships (p < .01) between physicians' own preferences modeled as a one standard deviation change in their own Personal Preference Score (preference for life-sustaining treatment) and whether they offered more or less aggressive care (OR [95%CI]). Physicians who had a higher Personal Preference Score (higher preference for their own life-sustaining treatment) were more likely to recommend a tracheostomy (1.38 [1.35-1.41]) and reintubation if the patient failed extubation (1.87 [1.81-1.94]). Pediatric intensivists who had a lower Personal Preference Score (lower preference for life-sustaining treatment) were more likely to recommend that the patient not be reintubated if extubation failed (1.42 [1.39-1.46]) and to recommend Do Not Resuscitate status (1.34 [1.31-1.37]). CONCLUSIONS: Among pediatric intensivists, personal preferences for life-sustaining treatment were significantly associated with scenario-based responses to acceptability of withholding and withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment. Physicians should be aware of the potential for personal preferences to influence practice recommendations, and endeavor to elicit and respect family preferences in collaborative decision making.
- end-of-life care
- pediatric intensive care