As we’ve reported, too many Americans are spending their final days in Intensive Care Units when studies show the vast majority would prefer a natural death.
When you consider 88% of our doctors would also opt out of aggressive treatment if they had a terminal illness, one is left questioning why our wishes are not being met when it comes to End-of-Life?
A recent story in Time magazine discusses the issue.
“Blame the same medical technology that helps Americans live longer than ever before. Hospitals and doctors are reimbursed for carrying out procedures, whatever the end result,” says Dr. VJ Periyakoil, the director of the Stanford Palliative Care Education and Training Program. “Physicians know it’s not the right thing to do, but we find ourselves participating in treatment that causes pain and suffering for our patients,” said Periyakoil, who believes medical school training plays a role.
Periyakoil says in medical school, students are instructed to extend lives at all costs, but they’re not taught how to discuss End-of-Life care with their patients. That decision is often left to family members who tend to opt for aggressive care. Periyakoil recounts instances where she suggested stopping aggressive treatment to family members of a terminal patient only to have the family refuse. “We can present the options but ultimately I have to defer to them,” Periyakoil said.
The way we care for our elderly in their finals days is an issue that will become even more critical as our country ages.
It’s estimated, more than a quarter of the U.S. population will be 65 or older by 2030, nearly doubling the amount of retirement age citizens today. If opting for aggressive treatment at all costs remains the norm, Medicare costs will continue to skyrocket in the coming years; currently a quarter of the annual Medicare budget is spent caring for patients in their last year of life, with half of that allocated towards their last 30 days.
Read the full story here.