Not enough people are making end-of-life care plans

  • A survey commissioned by Compassion in Dying says that people only want "comfort care" but few had taken steps that would ensure their wishes were respected.

    Charity, Compassion in Dying, have commissioned a poll that shows only 4% of people have signed an advance decision of how they would like their end of life care carried out. Many wrongly believe that their families would be able to ensure that hospitals follow their wishes; however, without a directive a hospital will decide what treatment a person at the end of their life will receive if they cannot express their wishes, not their family.

    The poll looked into 2,000 and found that more than half of adults would want what is called "comfort care" at the end of life. This is a measure that ensures the person has no pain or suffering and resuscitation or tube feeding is used. 13% of people wanted limited intervention which does include medication and tube feeding which could prolong life; however they wouldn't be resuscitated or put on a ventilator. Only 12% said they would want every possible measure taken to ensure they were kept alive.

    However very few of the adults polled had done anything to ensure that their wishes would be respected if they were unable to communicate with doctors, and 48% wrongly think that their family has the right to make decisions if they cannot communicate themselves.

    Only 4% of the people had made advanced decisions and the same amount had given family member legal powers to speak for them through a lasting power of attorney, reports the Guardian.

    "Too many people believe that decisions about their end of life can be put off or left to their family or friends to make when the time comes, but the reality is that in the absence of an advance decision or lasting power of attorney, these decisions are made by healthcare professionals," said Danielle Hamm, director of Compassion in Dying.

    "In best practice doctors or nurses will consult family members but ultimately, in the absence of legally binding treatment decisions, it is the healthcare team who must decide what they believe to be in the best interests of the patient - and that may not always be the treatment the patient would have chosen. This poll shows that most people have clear preferences about what treatment they do or don't want at the end of life, but startlingly few people have made those preferences clear, and this needs to be addressed."

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