Study Finds Thousands of Patients Receive Unnecessary Treatment at the End of Life

Even when loved ones are very elderly or have endured a long battle with illness, families often have great difficulty accepting when the time has come to stop fighting for a cure and turn their attention to planning for a good death, or at least a peaceful and pain-free end to suffering.  A recent large-scale review of studies from the UK, Australia, the US, Canada and Germany estimates that up to 38 per cent of patients are given unnecessary treatments at the end of their lives.

Researchers at the University of New South Wales found that instead of respecting a patient’s right to die with dignity, many terminal patients were being treated with chemotherapy, radiotherapy, blood transfusions, scans, CPR, dialysis or feeding tubes which offered no benefit but only prolonged life, and suffering.  This global study of 1.6 million patients found that far too many patients were denied their wishes to die at home but instead were being subjected to medical interventions they would not have wanted but could no longer speak against for themselves.

Although doctors and family often feel them must do everything possible for patients or loved ones, not all medical interventions are in the best interest of people nearing the end of life.  Instead of “raging against the dying of the light,” patients are often better served by focusing on quality of life and early access to palliative care rather than extending life at any cost.  And better yet, family members should talk with parents or grandparents about end of life wishes and put them in writing so that when the time comes, it will be clear what loved ones would have wanted for themselves.   By demystifying death and having those conversations about end of life, more people will be able to find comfort and peace as they near death and families will have more time to offer each other support rather than fight over which medical interventions are necessary.

Read more at The Oldish about making choices for a less invasive end of life by following this link to A Better Death or explore more under the End of Life Issues tab. 

Read more about the UNSW study, published in the International Journal for Quality in Health Care, here