Radiolab, the scientific and philosophical public radio station from New York City, examines the differences in how doctors and patients view medical interventions at the end of life.
The programme explores research from the Johns Hopkins Precursors Study which posed the scenario of irreversible brain injury without terminal illness. The results showed that 90% of doctors do not want CPR, and more than 85% do not want ventilation. The programme compares these results with responses from the public, many of whom wish to have these interventions.
Ken Murray, a former clinical assistant professor of family medicine at USC and author of the article How Doctors Die, appears on the show to explain why doctors wanted to refuse medical interventions. He said: “We know that CPR is terrible as an intervention. It basically doesn’t work very well. And people just don’t believe that.”
They also discuss the effect that the media and entertainment has on the public perception of the effectiveness of CPR, including the June 1996 study from the New England Journal of Medicine about the success rates of CPR as shown on the television medical shows ‘ER’, ‘Chicago Hope’ and ‘Rescue 911’; CPR successfully revived the fictional victims 75% of the time, more than double the most conservative real-life estimates.
Jad, a host of the show, interviews his father, a doctor, and asks about the decisions he has about his own end of life care, and whether it was different when he had to answer the same questions for his father and mother.
The Radiolab show The Bitter End can be streamed or downloaded from their website.