Results from several research studies combined with increasing public tensions surrounding physician-assisted suicide have fueled a growing awareness of the inadequacies of end-of-life care. Investigators also suggest that intensive care unit nurses have a limited role in end-of-life decision making and care planning. This article explores cultural issues influencing end-of-life care in intensive care units, explores factors surrounding the limited involvement of critical care nurses in end-of-life decision making and care planning, and offers recommendations for changing nursing practice. Because improving end-of-life care will require cultural changes, an understanding of the cultural issues involved is needed. Recommendations for changing nursing practice include a model of end-of-life care that incorporates the goals of both cure and comfort care, as well as a shared decision-making process. Nurses are essential to improving end-of-life care in today's intensive care units.

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