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Escape futile 'bed days'

June 21, 2018

 

Many patients end up receiving treatments at the end of their lives that do not provide benefits, and might even prolong pain and suffering, writes Nick Graves in 'ABC News'.

 

On some occasions patients end up receiving medical and surgical treatments that merely prolong suffering, resulting in an increasing number of "bad deaths", he writes.

 

Advances in medicine mean health care professionals can prolong life, yet some treatments have a low chance of providing tangible benefits to some patients, which represent a multimillion-dollar cost to the public purse.

 

The Australian-first Reducing Non-Beneficial Treatment at the End-of-Life collaboration conducted a study and found dying was increasingly institutionalised and was becoming a medicalised experience.

 

Researchers identified reasons why doctors sometimes provide treatment they know to be non-beneficial.

 

It included the treating doctors' orientation towards curative treatment, discomfort or inexperience with death and dying, concerns about legal risk, and poor communication skills.

 

Other reasons were requests for further treatment by patients or their families; and hospital factors, including a high degree of specialisation and organisational barriers to diverting a patient from a curative to a palliative pathway.

 

Researchers proposed the following measures:

 

1. Implement and evaluate an intervention to recognise and reduce non-beneficial treatment for people over 75 years of age at the end-of-life in three acute hospitals

 

2. An increased awareness of these economic costs may generate support for interventions designed to reduce futile treatments.

 

3. Consider emotional hardship or pain and suffering, which represent additional costs. It will allow hospitals to improve services at the end of life, free up hospital bed days and improve outcomes for patients and families.

 

4. Connections made with health services and policy groups will improve the likelihood of changing practice.

 

Read original report here: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-05-31/less-can-be-more-at-the-end-of-life/9799782

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