Survival with disability. Whose life is it, anyway?

27 Mar 2019

Editor—We read with interest the editorial by Dr Lönnqvist entitled “Medical Research and the Ethics of Medical Treatments: Disability-free Survival”.1 The editorial refers to our study, RESCUEicp, that interrogated the effect of secondary decompressive craniectomy in traumatic brain injury (TBI) patients with refractory intracranial hypertension.2 The editorial states ‘the conclusion to draw is instead that, despite reducing overall mortality, surgery is not associated with any true long-term benefits in this setting; it only increases the number of patients in a vegetative state or suffering serious disability, and should therefore not be used’. We have major concerns about this statement with reference to our study, and with the wider premise that underpins the editorial, and we will address each of these in turn.