Friday, November 15, 2013
An article in the New York Times nicely illustrates a point I usually make when I discuss living wills in class or other settings. I typically advise my audience that it is probably more important for patients to read their physicians' living wills than to write their own. As a practical matter, the views of physicians about end-of-life care are much more important than the preferences of their patients when end-of-life decisions are made. (For a discussion of this point, click here.)
Just as patients with cancer often consider whether different oncologists are aggressive or conservative in their approaches to cancer treatment, so should patients contemplating their end-of-life care consider whether different physicians are aggressive or conservative in their approaches to treatment at the end of life. Finding a physician with a similar perspective may be the most important way to ensure that a patient is treated as s/he would want to be treated.
Monday, July 29, 2013
This month's Hasting Center Report contains a case study written by me and by Dr. Craig Klugman considering both the practice of "deporting" indigent patients who lack legal immigration status and the ability of a medical center to withdraw life sustaining treatment against a family's wishes.
The article considers a scenario occuring in Texas which, of course, has a highly structured mechanism to refuse to follow an advanced directive if it means providing care which the hospital believes not productive. However, the problem of how to assert the legal right not to have a DNR is one of growing in importance.
For example, organizations like the Texas Alliance for Life tried but failed this last legislative session to vote in laws that would bar physicans from writing DNR orders against a patient or her surrogate's objection.