This study explored the lived experience of death in the hospital intensive care unit (ICU) from the perspective of surviving family members. More specifically, attention was placed on the experience of withdrawing life-support for a loved one. A phenomenological approach was adopted, and a convenience sampling technique was employed with family members in a community in Southern California. Four (4) caregivers of dying patients were interviewed to explore the lived experience of removal of life-support for a loved one. The caregiver reactions were categorized into seven themes that were common to all four participants: (a) overall experience, (b) mental perspective, (c) ambivalence about care, (d) perceptions of technology, (e) the decision, (f) aftermath, and (g) suggestions for others. The themes were discovered through implementation of transcendental phenomenology in which the researcher's past experience was bracketed out from interpretations of the interviews. Thus, the participants’ words were taken without preconception to the greatest extent possible. Even though the outcomes were identical—the death of the patient—the circumstances leading up to the decisions were each very different. Each circumstance had bioethical ramifications, including breaches in scope of practice, communication breakdown, and caregiver reactions. The results suggest several areas of improvement including those areas that were suggested by the participants themselves. The intention of this research is to shed light on this experience for mental healthcare professionals, such as psychologists and social workers who provide care for the families before, during, and/or after the experience of a loved one’s death in the ICU. Moreover, it is hoped that this research will help mental health clinicians to better understand the needs of professional healthcare providers who are exposed to these untenable circumstances on a regular basis.
|Commitee:||Cohn, Felicia G., Thomson, Paula|
|School:||Pacifica Graduate Institute|
|School Location:||United States -- California|
|Source:||DAI-B 76/10(E), Dissertation Abstracts International|
|Subjects:||Mental health, Medical Ethics, Clinical psychology|
|Keywords:||Death and dying, End of life, Mental health, Phenomenology, Psychology|
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