Most surgeons want life support agreement before operating

NEWS IN BRIEF — Posted Dec. 31, 2012

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Sixty percent of surgeons would always or sometimes refuse to operate if the patient insists on limiting life-support treatments in the event of a life-threatening complication, said a survey of more than 900 vascular, neurological and cardiothoracic surgeons, published Dec. 5 in Critical Care Medicine.

The surgeons were asked how they would deal with a scenario for a nonemergent, high-risk surgery where the patient asks to limit life support. Aside from concerns that patients would be unknowingly worsening their chance of survival, some surgeons said they were concerned about the potential negative impact on public reporting of their surgical outcomes.

Nearly three-quarters of surgeons said they would negotiate with patients about a time period to allow life-support treatment after surgery, after which it would be discontinued. Nearly 30% said they would tell the patient they could not honor the patients’ request to limit life support, and 20% said they would create a formal contract with the patient on life-support limitations, said the study (link).

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