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Emergency departments (EDs) are increasingly used for patients at the end of life stage of their diseases worldwide, even if they do not have acute and potentially treatable conditions. Moreover, an increasingly shortage of hospital beds, in spite of the well-recognized ageing of the population, has led to a progressive prolongation of the average length of stay (LOS) time in the vast majority of Italians EDs. Therefore, the aim of this study was to describe the trend of ED non-traumatic deaths in 11 Italians EDs, and to correlate these deaths with the medium length of stay in the same EDs. All cases classified as died during ambulance transfer or while in the ED have been retrieved from the hospital database of the 11 participating EDs, from January 1st 2007 to December 31st 2016, with the exclusion of traumatic events. The average LOS in minutes of the seven hospitals that could provide this information was then calculated. A continuously increasing number of ED deaths was observed in the vast majority of participating EDs, showing a nearly 30% increases in the last four years. The average LOS of the vast majority of participating hospitals displayed a significant increase during the observational period. We also found a linear correlation between average LOS and total number of ED deaths in the same seven hospitals. We believe that there is a compelling need to reconsider the end of life trajectories, not only under an economical perspective, but mainly according to a more ethical view.
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