End-of-Life Care: Patient Preference Matters

Posted by North Texas Cancer Center at Wise on October 25th, 2016

Enabling patients to die in peace with dignity has become a prevailing trend in the medical profession. As more doctors back off from aggressive, heroic measures in terminal cases,researchers are finding that patients themselves may prefer other actions. One study, for example, found that some 42 percent of primary care physicians believed they were over-treating patients in end-of-life scenarios. On the contrary, other research has found that some patients simply do not want doctors to give up on them. In certain scenarios, patients who pushed for extra interventions actually gained the help they needed for their lives to be saved.

In an era of advanced directives and a growing belief among medical professionals that toning down heroic interventions might be in patients’ best interest, the differing perspectives are issues patients and physicians alike must address. Even patients with advanced healthcare directives may change their minds when presented with potentially life-ending conditions. A study found that about a third of patients with directives personally requested aggressive interventions when push came to shove.

Opinions in the public arena are also changing. Back in 1990, about 15 percent of the American public believed doctors needed to do everything possible to save a person’s life. That number rose to about 31 percent by 2013.

The seemingly at-odd perspectives shed light on the need for strong communication between patients and their healthcare professionals. Whether a patient is facing terminal cancer, a heart condition, complications from an accident or normal age-related morbidity, researchers are finding that many simply do not want their doctors to give up on them.

Patients who desire aggressive interventions in end-of-life situations can help themselves by opening the door on communication with their doctors. Here are some tips:

  • Make wishes known clearly and concisely – Advanced directives can be valuable tools for ensuring wishes are heeded by healthcare professionals. If the desire, however, is to only limit care in very specific scenarios, make sure the documents reflect the true wishes. Also, be certain family members are aware of end-of-life desires.
  • Speak up – Patients can and also should speak to their healthcare providers prior to end-of-life issues becoming a concern. Primary care physicians who understand a patient’s wishes are more likely to act on them. Should desires change, be sure to state them.

Helping patients face end-of-life issues with dignity is a primary concern for healthcare providers. When aggressive interventions are not likely to work, doctors may choose to withhold them in hopes of sparing patients further stress. Patients, however, may have different desires. When this is the case, communication becomes critical for ensuring patients who desire heroic measures have their wishes respected.

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North Texas Cancer Center at Wise, a division of Choice Cancer Care, is now operating as the Cancer Center at Wise Regional and is one of the most renowned cancer treatment centers in Texas.

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North Texas Cancer Center at Wise

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North Texas Cancer Center at Wise
Joined: February 24th, 2016
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