Delayed clarification: information, clarification and ethical decisions in critical care in Norway

Authors


Eli Haugen Bunch, Institute of Nursing Science, University of Oslo, POB 1126 Blindern, 0317 Oslo, Norway. E-mail: e.h.bunch@sykepleievit.uio.no

Abstract

Delayed clarification: information, clarification and ethical decisions in critical care in Norway

Following the analysis of about 150 hours of field observation on a critical care unit in Norway a theory was generated to explain the actual ethical decision-making process. This was grounded in the empirical reality of physicians, nurses and family. The core theme in this study was a delayed clarification in assessing the prognosis of accident victims with neurosurgical traumas. The physicians, nurses and family had to wait for the clinical picture to clarify, during which time there was an exchange and emergence of information. Exchanging information, a subprocess to delayed clarification, involved a continuous flow of collecting and dispersing information about the clinical status of the patient. The nurses engaged in two useful strategies: grading information to family when the patient prognosis was poor, and providing grieving strategies for themselves, colleagues and family members. The core variable, delayed clarification has three dimensions: clinical, psychological and ethical. The nurses participated in the decision-making process to discontinue treatment as passive participants, they did not engage in collegial deliberations with the physicians. Ethical dilemmas were end of life questions, resource allocations, and questions of justice and organ transplants.

Ancillary