End-of-life care conversations benefit everyone, including doctors

Categories: Care.

Most of us are much less reluctant nowadays to appoint a substitute decision-maker in case we become incapacitated, or to talk with loved ones about our wishes if tests produce alarming results. That is a good thing. I’ve talked to many mourners who have had to make drastic end-of-life decisions for loved ones. Invariably, those who have “pulled the plug” knowing the wishes of the dying patient have less guilt and less regret.

Most patients (76.3 per cent) had thought about end-of-life care before they were hospitalized, and only 11.9 per cent wanted life-prolonging care, according to the study conducted under the direction of Daren Heyland, a professor of medicine and epidemiology at Queen’s University in Kingston. Nearly half (47.9 per cent) had completed a living will or advance-care plan and nearly three-quarters (73.3 per cent) had formally named a surrogate decision-maker.

Yet fewer than one-third (30.3 per cent) of the patients who had documented their wishes had then shared the information with their family doctors. Even when the hospitalized patients were asked if they wanted aggressive or merely comfort care, a subsequent medical chart audit showed that, most of the time (69.8 per cent), the documentation did not accurately reflect the patient’s wishes, with the greatest area of discordance occurring when patients said they wanted only comfort care.

For the full article, please visit the Globe and Mail

For more information about advance care planning in Canada, please visit the Speak Up website.

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