SEATTLE – Seeing chaotic last-ditch efforts to save a relative's life is not for everyone. But now, a majority of hospitals offer such access — and many people are choosing to be there.
The movement is called "family presence (search)" and is driven mainly by nurses who see it as more compassionate. Better access to information and witnessing for themselves the measures taken, they argue, often help survivors through the grieving process.
"It's actually more holistic patient care," said trauma nurse Lorie Pananen.
Seattle resident Pam Phillips and her children watched as doctors tried unsuccessfully to resuscitate her husband. Just before that, they said their goodbyes.
"There was a connection that needed to be held onto," said Pam Phillips. "This person's dying but they've been part of your life and part of your children's lives and you can't just cut it off."
But many doctors don't like families watching them while they work. Some worry about lawsuits but the main complaint is that relatives can be a distraction, some not being able to handle what they are seeing. Others pass out, becoming patients themselves.
"It's just necessary to focus on the patient — what would they want, what is best for them," said Dr. Bill Watts, the ICU medical director at Overlake Hospital (search) in Seattle.
Only about 10 percent of hospitals have written policies on "family presence" but two-thirds will allow it if a family asks — with or without a doctor's blessing.
Click in the box near the top of the story to watch a report by FOX News' Dan Springer.