Too much non-beneficial treatment for end-of-life patients

33-38% of hospital patients near end of life receive non-beneficial treatment
A recent study of the 38 medical publications in June 2016, revealed the extent of non-beneficial treatment in hospitals towards the end of a person’s life indicating that such treatments were widespread in the hospital system and questioning whether all of them were necessary.
The term non-beneficial treatment (NBT) was used to as an indicator of an inverse relationship between the intensity of a treatment received in the last six months of life and the expected degree of improvement in a patient’s health. Such treatment was often ineffective, unethical, costly or not in line with a patient’s wishes.
The studies reviewed covered over a million patients in 10 countries, Major findings included a 33% use of NBT chemotherapy in the last 6 weeks of life, unnecessary imaging of 25% of patients, and unwarranted blood tests.
The study indicates that there is ambiguity as to what treatments are deemed non-beneficial supporting a culture of “doing everything possible”, despite the wishes of the patient. Such medical behaviour reflects a disregard for the dignity and quality of life of elderly patients. It also has resource implications for hospitals as well as perpetuating false hope among carers.
Source: Cardona-Morrell, Kim, Turner, Anstey, Mitchell and Hillman, The International Journal for Quality in Health Care, June 27 2016.

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