A study spanning decades of data and questions from many physicians and patients has revealed a surprising trend: Your medical doctor is less likely to want emergency care than you are.
Just imagine: You’re in the final weeks or days of your life. Whether it’s a terminal illness, a terrible accident, or an old body shutting down, the vast majority of non-physicians will insist they want to take any and all options available to them.
From basic ER service, to radiation and chemo treatments, to being put on a breathing machine, most people not involved in the medical field would eagerly accept almost any treatment plan proposed to them.
Physicians, on the other hand, do not share this view.
The on-going John Hopkins Precursors Study shows this stark difference in end-of-life treatment wishes. But why the difference?
A source quoted at The Society Pages suggests one reason for these trends has to do with the way physicians hold more realistic expectations of emergency treatments and death.
Non-physicians are more inclined to be unaware of what the treatments involve and overestimate how successful they are.
Perhaps this is a result of television and movies, popular prime-time dramas like ER. In these shows CPR, when it is administered, for example, is shown to be successful three-fourths of the time.
In reality, less than one in ten CPR attempts are successful. A “success” includes three percent of the time when those who survive, end up in a near-vegetative state.
Breathing machines are also frequently accepted as a treatment possibility by non-physicians. Understanding how breathing machines work, however, may change this view.
To be put on a breathing machine the patient must be paralyzed; because the machine’s rhythm is not the same as a normal breathing pattern, the patient will fight it uncontrollably. Completely paralyzing the patient is the only way to make it work, and even then the patient will feel a constant sensation of suffocating.
Considering the horrible realities of emergency treatments, it’s not much of a mystery why physicians don’t want them.
Maybe this would be different if more people were aware of this trend, as well as the fact that our over-budget medical system in the US overwhelmingly pays to care for individuals in the last three weeks of their lives.
Perhaps more people would, like their physicians, want to avoid such expensive, painful, and rarely successful treatments.
[Image via ShutterStock]