A major new study has been released confirming the widespread use of non-beneficial treatments of people at the end of life in acute care hospitals. These are treatments “with little or no hope of it having any effect, largely because of the underlying state of the patient’s health and the known or expected poor prognosis regardless of treatment”. The study found that more than a third of patients studied received invasive and potentially harmful medical treatments, even though they were dying.
This prevents people dying with dignity as they wish because it can cause more suffering and indignity for the person, can be against their expressed wishes, even in an advance care directive, and uses up precious medical resources for no benefit to anyone. Fellow authors, Ken Hillman, and Magnolia Cardona-Morrell, have been interviewed on the ABC – yesterday on ‘The World Today” and RN Breakfast this morning .
One of the major causes of this situation is what the study calls “a culture of ‘doing everything possible’ even if it is against expressed patients’ wishes”. As it says: ” These behaviors have repercussions not only on the capacity and financial sustainability of the health system, and perpetuate the unrealistic high social expectation of survival at all costs, but also more importantly reflect a disregard for human dignity and quality end of life”.
The doctors who claim that this meets the requirement to “do no harm” are living in a fantasy. Good medicine is not just about curing people, but about caring for us all, right to the end, with respect for our wishes.