Three Wishes Project – A Human Touch in ICU

For less than $200, a final wish can be granted for patients in critical or palliative care; giving those facing end of life a bit of comfort in an otherwise clinical surrounding.   The Three Wishes Project, introduced at McMaster University and St. Joseph’s Healthcare in January 2013, offers families and patients an opportunity to humanize the final days of life.

To date, the study has included 40 participants and 159 wishes were granted in an effort to celebrate the lives of patients in ICU and help families in the grieving process by personalizing end-of-life care.  Funding for the projects was provided by the Hamilton Academy of Health Science Research Organization and the Canadian Intensive Care Foundation.

In some cases, patients wanted to see a relative they had lost touch with, renew their wedding vows or have a personal item brought to their bedside.  The project, led by Deborah Cook, a staff doctor in the St. Joe’s ICU, divided wishes into five categories:

  • Humanizing the Environment – flower or mementos brought into the room
  • Personal Tributes – such as a tea party or tree planting in the patient’s name
  • Family Reconnections – finding a lost relative
  • Rituals and Observances – blessings or vow renewal
  • Paying It Forward – donation to a charity or arranging for organ donation

The study, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, found that nearly 98 per cent of wishes were carried out at a cost of between $0 and $200 per patient.  Interviews with family after the death of their loved-one demonstrated the success of the project to personalize end of life in the ICU.   To read the published study and for editorials on the project, visit the American College of Physicians Annals of Internal Medicine at: .