Economics of end-of-life care in the intensive care unit

P. Pronovost, D. C. Angus

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


End-of life care is in need of improvement, yet little is known about the effectiveness or cost of various end-of-life therapies. Economic analyses are used to help make decisions between two or more therapies when resources are constrained. In this chapter, we review the various types of economic analyses, the costs of dying, and how healthcare reform has impacted these costs. Finally, we discuss the unique issues associated with cost-effectiveness studies of palliative therapy, with emphasis on the problem of calculating a cost-effectiveness ratio when there is no good measurement for valuing the quality of death. It is likely that methods for conducting a cost-effectiveness analyses for end-of-life care will need to evolve or alternative strategies such as cost-benefit analysis or distributive justice will be needed to inform resource allocation decisions. As the national debate about healthcare costs, access, and quality continues, we will increasingly turn to economic analyses to help make resource allocation decisions. Cost-effectiveness analysis will continue to be the most popular form of economic analysis because it combines the results (effectiveness of treatment) with the costs of achieving the results. We must be aware of the limitations of cost-effectiveness analyses and the need for value judgments when using cost-effectiveness analyses to inform healthcare decisions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)N46-N51
JournalCritical care medicine
Issue number2 SUPPL.
StatePublished - Jan 1 2001


  • Cost-effectiveness
  • Critical care
  • Economics
  • End of life
  • ICU
  • Intensivists
  • Managing death
  • Mortality
  • Outcome
  • Resource utilization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine


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