Obstacles in providing end-of-life care
■ Connected coverage - selected articles on trends, challenges and controversies in the changing world of medicine.
Posted May 7, 2012
Selected articles on trends, challenges and controversies in the changing world of medicine.
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In recent years, physicians increasingly have grappled to overcome barriers to give patients the end-of-life care they need.
American Medical News has reported about how patients and families have outlooks that can hinder such patient-physician encounters. A nationwide survey of 663 palliative care doctors found that more than half of these doctors said the care they recommended has been called euthanasia, killing or even murder by patients, family members and other health professionals. At the same time, less than a quarter of patients have written advance directives — documents that can prompt end-of-life care discussions with physicians. Without such documents, relatives often struggle with what to do for their loved ones.
Palliative care treatments such as using opiates to control pain and other symptoms still draw accusations of euthanasia and murder, says a study released in March. The distinction between ceasing life-sustaining treatments and aggressive pain control is not widely understood by many patients and their families. Read more
Though many patients think it’s important to have advance directives, they often don’t follow through and fill out such forms. That was the finding of a survey of 1,700 California adults released in February. Only 8% of respondents said a physician had asked about their end-of-life treatment wishes. Read more
As the country’s population ages, the surrogate experience is expected to become more common for family members who must make life-or-death decisions for loved ones. Doctors can help ease the strain by talking with families, listening to their concerns and sharing responsibility for the final decision. Read more