Alex O'Brien

Caring

Shocking number of dying patients given unnecessary treatment

Shocking number of dying patients given unnecessary treatment

A review into end-of-life care by the University of New South Wales has examined doctors, patients and families from 10 countries around the world, has found a startlingly high number of terminally ill people are being given unnecessary treatment.

Data was analysed from 1.2 million patients worldwide, and found that more than a third of dying patients were being given needless and “excessive” treatments which had no impact on their prognosis.

The researchers behind the report believe the over-use of treatment comes from families desperate to do more for their loved one and hoping for a miracle. However, far from lengthening the patients’ lives, these treatments have been labelled “invasive and potentially harmful”. Among these include those with incurable cancer, a third of whom were subjected to chemotherapy in the final six weeks of life.

Sadly, it also appears this trend is spreading to those with Do Not Resuscitate orders, a quarter of whom were in fact resuscitated.

Dr Magnolia Cardona-Morrell of the Simpson Centre for Health Services Research told The Telegraph that media-exaggerated reports of advancements in medical science are giving patients and their families “unrealistic” expectations as to what can really be done for them. “It is not unusual for family members to refuse to accept the fact that their loved one is naturally dying of old age and its associated complications and so they pressure doctors to attempt heroic interventions.”

Cardona-Morrell believes that in lieu of false hope and striving for unattainable cures, the conversation needs to shift more towards the acceptance and inevitability of death. “As a community we must also stop shying away from the topic of death,” she said. “Start a discussion now with your elderly loves ones about their end of life care preferences before they become too ill to have that conversation.”

What do you think about these findings? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.

Related links:

I want the choice to die with dignity

Caring for someone with a terminal illness

Cancer patients are not getting palliative care due to stigma