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End-of-life decisions, nurses, and the law

      Among the many decisions made and implemented in the intensive care unit (ICU) are those about where and when treatment limits should apply. As these decisions often foreshadow the end of life, they are conceptually different to those made with the aim of maintaining and restoring health and life. Although nurses do not bear ultimate responsibility for making these decisions, they are often the ones who action them. Nurses must, therefore, be confident that the decision was made in line with best practice, and this includes ensuring that it accords with the law. However, research demonstrates that there are significant gaps in nurses' knowledge and understanding of the law that applies in these circumstances, leading to poorer patient outcomes, and potential legal risk. In this editorial, I argue that nurses’ legal knowledge is constitutive of professional nursing practice and can improve end-of-life decision-making for patients in the ICU.
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