The toughest obstacle in any healthcare professional’s career is deciding the best ultimate treatment for those on the brink of death. On one hand, aggressive treatment is a last resort that could potentially save a life. However, with a low chance of costly and painful treatments being effective for life-saving; it might be inhumane to administer the patient with the turmoil when they should just be preparing for their last moments.
The debate remains. Should patients be avoiding aggressive treatments for dying hospital visitors? Is it worth taking a chance when it could end up being a fruitless effort? Is it worth not taking a chance when there’s a gleam of a possibility of the patient pulling-through?
Modern Physicians Would Not Want to be Resuscitated
Physicians are likely to prefer a peaceful death at home rather than receiving radical treatment, unlike the opinions of many other Americans in other careers. No one necessarily wants to die, but everyone does. Medical staff are just so often exposed to the heart-wrenching pain that so countless others receive in last futile attempts to prolong a life.
A study conducted in 2013 by the journal Plos One, found that today’s healthcare community share relatively similar views on end of life measures than they did in 1989. On the same side of the coin, Standford University did research that found that 9 out of 10 doctors straight out of medical school would not wish to receive CPR or cardiac life support if they were to have their heart stop from terminal illness.
More Americans than Ever Believe Doctors Should do Everything Possible
According to Pew, in 1990, only approximately 15% of people in the U.S. believed that physicians should use any means possible to try to keep a dying patient alive. In 2013, the number more than doubled to 31%. Additionally, only 66% now say that doctors should sometimes allow patients to die when it was 73% just a little over two decades ago.
Our System Leans Toward Over-treatment
When time is running out and a patient is unable to speak their wishes on their own behalf, it often becomes a dispute between loved ones or the medical staff on how to handle it. In many instances of dying patient care, the most measures possible are taken to try to save a life. And, while families struggle internally trying to decide the best route of action, the hospital will keep administering aggressive treatments. However, this is not always the best solution. The problem is that so few people clearly indicate how they want to receive treatment if they ever become in a situation like that.
What Measures Should You Take to Ensure Your Wishes are Met?
Sure the last thing anyone wants to discuss is the “what-ifs” of dying. But, it really is a practical thing to consider early on in life when you still are healthy. Some things you should do “just in case” include:
- Deciding if you want to forgo harsh treatments at the end of your life if you were terminally ill
- Choose whether it is more important to you to surround yourself with family or friends than to be at a hospital
- Talk to your family or any other people in your life that could possibly be making these decisions for you if you are unable to
- Document your wishes in writing
The Conversation Project
The Conversation Project began in 2010 among doctors who were discussing “good” and “bad” deaths. After a while, the idea grew into a campaign aimed towards helping people speak up about how they would like to carry on their final moments. Their initiative includes a free downloadable PDF available in English, French, Spanish, and Mandarin that help answer any questions one may have regarding the issue. As the name of their campaign would suggest, they strive to educate society on the importance of sharing this very important conversation with loved ones. On the main page, they even feature a box that directly can post your thoughts on how you would want to be treated on the main page.
According to their site:
- 60% of people say that making sure they do not burden their family by making them take on tough decisions is “extremely important”
56% of people have not communicated their end of life wishes
Benefits of Talking About Final Wishes
According to a study conducted by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, “patients who talked with their families or physicians about their preferences for end-of-life care:
- Had less fear and anxiety.
- Felt they had more ability to influence and direct their medical care.
- Believed that their physicians had a better understanding of their wishes.
- Indicated a greater understanding and comfort level than they had before the discussion.