Priority Setting in Cardiac Surgery: A Survey of Decision Making and Ethical Issues
Journal of Medical Ethics 2003 December; 29(6): 353-358
OBJECTIVES: The aim of this study was to examine priority setting for coronary artery bypass surgery, and to provide an overview of decisions and rationales used in clinical practice. METHOD: Questionnaires were sent to all permanently employed cardiologists, cardiothoracic surgeons, and anaesthesiologists at nine Swedish hospitals performing adult cardiothoracic surgery. RESULTS: A total of 208 physicians responded (a 44% return rate). There was considerable agreement concerning the criteria that should be used to set priorities for coronary artery bypass interventions (clusters of factors in synthesis). However, there was a lack of accord regarding the use of national guidelines for priority setting and risk indexes. CONCLUSIONS: Basic training and the strong support of ethical principles in priority setting are lacking. The respondents indicated a need for clearer guidelines and an open dialogue or discussion. The lack of generally acknowledged plans and guidelines for priority setting may result in unequal, conditional, and unfair treatment.
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