If your family member has been admitted to an ICU, you have suddenly been plunged into an alien and intimidating world. Busy ICU doctors and nurses, despite their best intentions, may not have the time to give you the explanations you badly need.

The ICU Guide For Families walks family members through the ICU stay from admission to discharge, providing clear explanations including:

  • who are all these people, and how should you communicate with the ICU team?
  • what are all these lines, tubes, and machines?
  • what are common medical conditions in the ICU?
  • how can you help to prevent common complications?
  • how does Covid-19 make things different?
  • what are the risks and benefits of common procedures, and how should you approach giving consent?
  • how do you make decisions about aggressiveness of care, and when enough is enough?

Family members often feel powerless and pushed to the side. They don’t know what to do, or what to look out for. But you have a central role to play. Most sections of the book are followed by a section “What Can You Do?” with specific, practical recommendations for how you can support your loved one’s care and be an active partner to the ICU team.

book ICU Guide for Families Understanding Intensive Care by Lara Goitein


“From COVID to catheters, the business of saving imperiled lives is rendered here in straightforward (and often, poetic) terms, which reminds us that all those drawing breath should be familiar with what occurs in an ICU. This is the book that makes that possible.”

Paul Farmer, MD, PhD, Kolokotrones University Professor at Harvard and Co-Founder of Partners in Health

“Lara Goitein has produced an essential guide to one of the most difficult journeys through the one of most difficult wards in any hospital—the Intensive Care Unit. As an intensive care doctor herself, she is the perfect guide to provide the perspective, compassion, and acceptance that families and patients need as they navigate this intense journey.”

— Siddhartha Mukherjee, MD, Author of the Pulitzer Prize winning The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer

“. . . You need to read this book before you need to read this book. Read it if you are having a serious operation. Read it if you are talking to a parent about their wishes for intensive care. Read it if someone you love has someone they love who is sick in an ICU.”

— Gordon D. Rubenfeld, MD, MSc, FRCP(C)