“The ICU is Not a Pause Button”

Yesterday’s article in “The End” — a New York Times series about end-of-life issues — raises some worthwhile topics.  But I didn’t care for the tone, which I found somewhat inhumane — especially since (or because?) the author is an ICU nurse.  I’ll try to look past that to summarize her key points, in case any of the points resonate with you:

  • if your family member is elderly and frail, avoid the ICU
  • “When a family member is in the I.C.U., it’s not enough to [make a phone] call. You need to drop what you’re doing and be at that person’s side, figuring out what is best for them.”
  • while families think of the ICU as a “pause button,” patients are miserable in the ICU.  The author would probably say that families shouldn’t wait for out-of-town relatives to arrive to decide how to proceed.
  • the ICU is not a nice place to die because of all the unpleasant things happening to the patient:  “mask on, mask off, a feeding tube in his nose, IVs in his arms, having his dry mouth sponged, his throat suctioned, defecating and being cleaned up”

These are probably good things to consider now, not when sitting in the ICU…  If you do end up in the ICU, it seems that we can’t rely on the medical staff to have a conversation with us as to where things are headed, or that efforts are futile or hurtful.  The staff is focused on keeping the patient alive.

Here’s a link to the article:


The End
The I.C.U. Is Not a Pause Button
The New York Times
By Kristen McConnell
August 26, 2015 4:15 am