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Life and death decisions for incompetent patients: determining best interests--the Irish perspective.AIMS: To determine whether healthcare providers apply the best interest principle equally to different resuscitation decisions. METHODS: An anonymous questionnaire was distributed to consultants, trainees in neonatology, paediatrics, obstetrics and 4th medical students. It examined resuscitation scenarios of critically ill patients all needing immediate resuscitation. Outcomes were described including survival and potential long-term sequelae. Respondents were asked whether they would intubate, whether resuscitation was in the patients best interest, would they accept surrogate refusal to initiate resuscitation and in what order they would resuscitate. RESULTS: The response rate was 74%. The majority would wish resuscitation for all except the 80-year-old. It was in the best interest of the 2-month-old and the 7-year-old to be resuscitated compared to the remaining scenarios (p value <0.05 for each comparison). Approximately one quarter who believed it was in a patient best interests to be resuscitated would nonetheless accept the family refusing resuscitation. Medical students were statistically more likely to advocate resuscitation in each category. CONCLUSION: These results suggest resuscitation is not solely related to survival or long-term outcome and the best interest principle is applied differently, more so at the beginning of life.