Nurse’s, physician’s and family member’s experiences of withholding or withdrawing life-sustaining treatment process in a South Korean intensive care unit
Item statusRestricted Access
Embargo end date31/07/2022
Choi, Hye Ri
In South Korea, the Hospice, Palliative Care and Life-sustaining Treatment Decision-making Act was enforced in 2018. The Act enabled withdrawing life-sustaining treatment with the legal background in South Korea. Therefore, it was an important time point to explore the practical experiences and perceptions of nurses, physicians and family members in South Korean intensive care units. This research aims to explore nurses’, physician’s and family member’s perceptions and experiences of withholding or withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment in a South Korean intensive care unit. This study was conducted as a focused ethnography. The theoretical framework was symbolic interactionism. Interview data was collected by semi-structured interviews. Forty-five interviews were conducted with 23 nurses, 10 physicians and 4 family members. All nurse and physician participants and one family member participant were recruited in a hospital in South Korea whereas three family member participants were recruited via the researcher’s personal contacts. Subsequently, interview data was analysed by thematic analysis (Braun and Clarke, 2006) due to its flexibility and availability of comparisons in-between participant groups. Four sub-themes emerged from the data; “family member’s power”, “medical consideration”, “patient’s dignity” and “customer ideology”. The four themes contributed to the emergence of the overarching theme of “constructing death”. The overarching theme of “constructing death” was considered in relation to the theoretical analysis proposed by Seale (1998). This study had limitations of a) samples as this study was conducted in a small intensive care unit of a South Korean hospital b) indistinct nurses’ roles in the withholding or withdrawing life-sustaining treatment process. Nonetheless, the study findings are expected to contribute to intensive care practices and educations for nurses and physicians.