Where do you stand on End-of-Life Treatment?

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MedPage Today reports that healthcare providers and the general public have differing opinions. Researchers have found that nearly two-thirds of Americans believe that an individual in a vegetative state can still be saved by a miracle. However, only a fifth of doctors agree.

The researchers surveyed both the public and trauma specialists. 1,006 Americans were contacted via a random-digit-dialing telephone survey, while using a convenience sample of medical personnel “involved in trauma care, including medical directors of trauma units, trauma nurses, and emergency services personnel.

While there were some similarities in the two groups, there were also some significant differences. 51.9% of the public and 62.7% of professionals say they would want to be present while an injured loved one was resuscitated, and most of both groups said they would trust a physician’s decision to withdraw treatment when it would be futile. 72.4% of the public vs. 44.3% of professionals believed that patients “have a right to demand care not deemed appropriate by the physician”. According to the study:

61.3% of the public and 20.2% of professionals believe that a miracle can a save person in a persistent vegetative state, and 57.4% of the public said divine intervention can save a person when doctors think treatment is futile, compared with just 19.5% of trauma professionals.

Interestingly, on the tough question of when to stop life-sustaining treatment, 72.8% of the public and 92.6% of professionals think if there’s no hope for recovery, the focus of care should shift to the comfort of the dying patients.

But among the minority who disagreed, 86.2% of the public and 33.3% of the professionals said treatment aimed at recovery should continue regardless of cost. On the other hand, when such aggressive care meant taking resources away from those with a better chance of life, members of the minority changed their minds — 56.1% of the public and 62.8% of the professionals said the care should cease.

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About Penny R Miller, MS, LPC, CBIS

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