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Families with loved ones on mechanical ventilation in the ICU found a way to face “living with dying”

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How do family members of critically ill patients on mechanical ventilation in the intensive care unit (ICU) experience this life-support technology?


Qualitative study using modified grounded theory.


A tertiary care, medical-surgical ICU in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.


26 people (10 spouses, 14 children, 1 father, and 1 brother-in-law) who were 45–68 years of age (mean age 52 y, 58% men) and had a family member receiving mechanical ventilation in the ICU. Patients (mean age 71 y, 65% men) were admitted to the ICU in the previous 7–13 days (mean 7.5 d) and had an estimated 50% probability of death according to the ICU attending physician; 81% had a medical diagnosis. No patient had a do-not-resuscitate status.


Family members participated in in-depth, semistructured interviews (45–60 min) and were asked about their feelings and experiences dealing with loved ones on mechanical ventilation in the ICU. Interviews were audiotaped, transcribed, and analysed using grounded theory methods.


Living with dying. The …

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  • Source of funding: Canadian Institutes of Health Research.