Exploring clinicians’ decision-making processes about end-of-life care after burns: A qualitative interview study

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Introduction: Little is known about treatment decision-making experiences and how/why particular attitudes exist amongst specialist burn clinicians when faced with patients with potentially non-survivable burn injuries. This exploratory qualitative study aimed to understand clinicians’ decision-making processes regarding end-of-life (EoL) care after a severe and potentially non-survivable burn injury. Methods: Eleven clinicians experienced in EoL decision-making were interviewed via telephone or video conferencing in June-August 2021. A thematic analysis was undertaken using a framework approach. Results: Decision-making about initiating EoL care was described as complex and multifactorial. On occasions when people presented with ‘unsurvivable’ injuries, decision-making was clear. Most clinicians used a multidisciplinary team approach to initiate EoL; variations existed on which professions were included in the decision-making process. Many clinicians reported using protocols or guidelines that could be personalised to each patient. The use of pathways/protocols might explain why clinicians did not report routine involvement of palliative care clinicians in EoL discussions. Conclusion: The process of EoL decision-making for a patient with a potentially non-survivable burn injury was layered, complex, and tailored. Processes and approaches varied, although most used protocols to guide EoL decisions. Despite the reported complexity of EoL decision-making, palliative care teams were rarely involved or consulted.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)595-606
Number of pages12
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - May 2023


  • Burns
  • Decision-making
  • End of life
  • Palliative care
  • Qualitative research
  • Terminal care

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