BACKGROUND/OBJECTIVES: To explore the opinion of the Dutch general public and of physicians regarding euthanasia in patients with advanced dementia.
DESIGN: A cross-sectional survey.
SETTING: The Netherlands.
PARTICIPANTS: Random samples of 1,965 citizens (response = 1,965/2,641 [75%]) and 1,147 physicians (response = 1,147/2,232 [51%]).
MEASUREMENTS: The general public was asked to what extent they agreed with the statement "I think that people with dementia should be eligible for euthanasia, even if they no longer understand what is happening (if they have previously asked for it)." Physicians were asked whether they were of the opinion that performing euthanasia is conceivable in patients with advanced dementia, on the basis of a written advance directive, in the absence of severe comorbidities. Multivariable logistic regression was performed to identify factors associated with the acceptance of euthanasia.
RESULTS: A total of 60% of the general public agreed that people with advanced dementia should be eligible for euthanasia. Factors associated with a positive attitude toward euthanasia were being female, age between 40 and 69 years, and higher educational level. Considering religion important was associated with lower acceptance. The percentage of physicians who considered it acceptable to perform euthanasia in people with advanced dementia was 24% for general practitioners, 23% for clinical specialists, and 8% for nursing home physicians. Having ever performed euthanasia before was positively associated with physicians considering euthanasia conceivable. Being female, having religious beliefs, and being a nursing home physician were negatively associated with regarding performing euthanasia as conceivable.
CONCLUSION: There is a discrepancy between public acceptance of euthanasia in patients with advanced dementia and physicians' conceivability of performing euthanasia in these patients. This discrepancy may cause tensions in daily practice because patients' and families' expectations may not be met. It urges patients, families, and physicians to discuss mutual expectations in these complex situations in a comprehensive and timely manner.
BACKGROUND: Antimicrobials are frequently prescribed to terminally-ill patients with cancer; however, physicians' practice patterns regarding antimicrobial use vary widely. This study aimed to systematically identify factors that determine physicians' attitudes toward the management of infectious diseases in terminally-ill patients with cancer.
METHODS: A nationwide cross-sectional survey involving 600 oncologists, 600 infectious diseases physicians, 600 palliative care physicians, and 220 home care physicians was conducted between November 2017 and January 2018. The primary endpoint was physicians' attitudes toward the management of infectious diseases in terminally-ill patients with cancer with a few weeks of prognosis. Physicians' beliefs regarding management of infectious diseases as well as physician-perceived 'good death' were also assessed (1=strongly disagree-6=strongly agree).
RESULTS: There were 895 (44.3%) analyzable response, and average scores of physicians' attitudes ranged between 2.69 and 4.32 In total, 241 (27%; 95%CI=24-30) to 691 (78%; 95%CI=75-81) respondents showed proactive attitudes toward various infectious diseases management. In linear regression analysis, determinants of proactive attitudes included: physicians' belief that examination and treatment will improve quality of life and prognosis and reduce suffering (ß=0.32, t=9.99, p=0.00); greater physician-perceived importance on receiving enough treatment (ß=0.09, t=2.88, p=0.00) and less importance on dying a natural death (ß=-0.07, t=-2.14, p=0.03) for a 'good death'; working at a tertiary care hospital (ß=0.16, t=4.40, p=0.00); and not being a home care physician (ß=-0.20, t=-5.51, p=0.00) or palliative care physician (ß=-0.12, t=-3.64, p=0.00).
CONCLUSIONS: Physicians have divergent attitudes toward the management of infectious diseases in terminally-ill patients with cancer. Reflection by physicians on their own beliefs and perceptions regarding infectious disease management and a 'good death' may help provide the best end-of-life care.
The study objective was to explore the characteristics of rural general practice which exemplify optimal end-of-life (EOL) care from the perspective of people diagnosed with cancer, their informal carers and general practitioners (GPs); and the extent to which consumers perceived that actual EOL care addressed these characteristics. Semi-structured telephone interviews were conducted with six people diagnosed with cancer, three informal carers and four GPs in rural and regional Australia. Using a social constructionist approach, thematic analysis was undertaken. Seven characteristics were perceived to be essential for optimal EOL care: (1) commitment and availability, (2) building of therapeutic relationships, (3) effective communication, (4) psychosocial support, (5) proficient symptom management, (6) care coordination and (7) recognition of the needs of carers. Most GPs consistently addressed these characteristics. Comprehensive EOL care that meets the needs of people dying with cancer is not beyond the resources of rural and regional GPs and communities.
Background: The worldwide need for palliative care is high, especially in mid- income countries like Ecuador, where the percentage of patients receiving such care is very small due to the scarcity of infrastructure and specialized personnel and to the unequal distribution in the country. The objective of this study is to explore the knowledge, attitudes and expectations related to palliative care of the physicians in Ecuador.
Methods: A qualitative study based on 28 semi-structured interviews, from March 2014 to November 2016, with physicians working in four cities in Ecuador recruited through the snowball technique. Thematic analysis was developed supported by the ATLAS.ti software.
Results: Five core themes were identified: (1) training, (2) health policy, (3) professionals’ activities, (4) health services and (5) development of palliative care in Ecuador.
Conclusions: Strategies are needed which intensify the training of medical professional in palliative care, as well as avail the human resources and materials for providing it.
Background: Voluntary assisted dying (VAD) became legal in the Australian state of Victoria on 19 June 2019 and will be legal in Western Australia from 2021. Other Australian states are progressing similar law reform processes. In Australia and internationally, doctors are central to the operation of all legal VAD regimes. It is broadly accepted that doctors, as a profession, are less in favour of VAD law reform than the rest of the community. To date, there has been little analysis of the factors that motivate doctors’ support or opposition to legalised VAD in Australia.
Aim: To review all studies reporting the attitudes of Australian doctors regarding the legalisation of VAD, including their willingness to participate in it, and to observe and record common themes in existing attitudinal data.
Design: Scoping review and thematic analysis of qualitative and quantitative data.
Data sources: CINAHL, Embase, Scopus, PubMed and Informit were searched from inception to June 2019.
Results: 26 publications detailing 19 studies were identified. Thematic analysis of quantitative and qualitative findings was performed. Three overarching themes emerged. ‘Attitudes towards regulation’ encompassed doctors’ orientation towards legalisation, the shortcomings of binary categories of support or opposition and doctors’ concerns about additional regulation of their professional practices. ‘Professional and personal impact of legalisation’ described tensions between palliative care and VAD, and the emotional and social impact of being providers of VAD. ‘Practical considerations regarding access’ considered doctors’ concerns about eligibility criteria and their willingness to provide VAD.
Conclusion: A detailed understanding of medical perspectives about VAD would facilitate the design of legislative models that take better account of doctors’ concerns. This may facilitate their greater participation in VAD and help address potential access issues arising from availability of willing doctors.
Background: On-line tutorials are being increasingly used in medical education, including in teaching housestaff skills regarding end of life care. Recently an on-line tutorial incorporating interactive clinical vignettes and communication skills was used to prepare housestaff at Johns Hopkins Hospital to use the Maryland Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment (MOLST) form, which documents patient preferences regarding end of life care. 40% of housestaff who viewed the module felt less than comfortable discussing choices on the MOLST with patients. We sought to understand factors beyond knowledge that contributed to housestaff discomfort in MOLST discussions despite successfully completing an on-line tutorial.
Methods: We conducted semi-structured telephone interviews with 18 housestaff who completed the on-line MOLST training module. Housestaff participants demonstrated good knowledge of legal and regulatory issues related to the MOLST compared to their peers, but reported feeling less than comfortable discussing the MOLST with patients. Transcripts of interviews were coded using thematic analysis to describe barriers to using the MOLST and suggestions for improving housestaff education about end of life care discussions.
Results: Qualitative analysis showed three major factors contributing to lack of housestaff comfort completing the MOLST form:  physician barriers to completion of the MOLST,  perceived patient barriers to completion of the MOLST, and  design characteristics of the MOLST form. Housestaff recommended a number of adaptations for improvement, including in-person training to improve their skills conducting conversations regarding end of life preferences with patients.
Conclusions: Some housestaff who scored highly on knowledge tests after completing a formal on-line curriculum on the MOLST form reported barriers to using a mandated form despite receiving training. On-line modules may be insufficient for teaching communication skills to housestaff. Additional training opportunities including in-person training mechanisms should be incorporated into housestaff communication skills training related to end of life care.
Background: Previous studies suggest that the symptomatology threshold (i.e. the level and types of symptoms) for a referral to specialized palliative care might differ for doctors in different parts of the healthcare system; however, it has not yet been investigated.
Aim: To investigate if the number and level of symptoms/problems differed for patients referred from the primary and secondary healthcare sectors (i.e. general practitioner versus hospital physician).
Setting/participants: Adult cancer patients registered in the Danish Palliative Care Database who reported their symptoms/problems at admittance to specialized palliative care between 2010 and 2017 were included. Ordinal logistic regression analyses were performed with each symptom/problem as outcome to study the association between referral sector and symptoms/problems, controlled for the effect of gender, age, cancer diagnosis and the specialized palliative care service referred to.
Results: The study included 31,139 patients. The average age was 69 years and 49% were women. Clinically neglectable associations were found between referral sector and pain, appetite loss, fatigue, number of symptoms/problems, number of severe symptoms/problems (odds ratios between 1.05 and 1.20, all p < 0.05) and physical functioning (odds ratio = 0.81 (inpatient care) and 1.32 (outpatient), both p < 0.05). The remaining six outcomes were not significantly associated with referral sector.
Conclusion: Differences across healthcare sectors in, for example, competences and patient population did not seem to result in different symptomatology thresholds for referring patients to palliative care since only small, and probably not clinically relevant, differences in symptomatology was found across referral sectors.
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way doctors approach palliative and end-of-life care, which has undoubtedly affected the mental health of patients, families, and health care professionals. Given these circumstances, doctors working on the front line are vulnerable to moral injury and compassion fatigue. This is a reflection of 2 junior doctors experiencing firsthand demands of caring for patients during the outbreak.
Background: the World Health Organization (WHO) advocates for early integration of palliative care for all children with life-threatening illness. Provider awareness and misperceptions, however, can impede this imperative. In the Eurasian region, little is known about physician knowledge and perspectives on palliative care.
Methods: The Assessing Doctors' Attitudes on Palliative Treatment survey was developed as an evidence-based and culturally relevant assessment of physician perceptions on palliative care integration into childhood cancer care in Eurasia. Iteratively tested by American and Eurasian palliative care experts, the survey was culturally adapted, translated, and piloted in English, Russian, and Mongolian. The survey was distributed to physicians caring for children with cancer. Fifteen statements were scored in accordance with WHO guidelines to evaluate provider knowledge. The statistical analysis was complemented by a qualitative analysis of open-ended responses.
Results: This study received 424 responses from 11 countries in Eurasia. The mean alignment between provider perspectives and WHO recommendations was 70% (range, 7%-100%). Significant independent predictors of higher alignment included country, prior palliative care education, and greater experience with patient death. Respondents primarily described palliative care as end-o-life care and symptom management. Two-thirds of respondents (67%) reported not feeling confident about delivering at least 1 component of palliative care.
Conclusions: This is the first study assessing physician perspectives and knowledge of palliative care in Eurasia and reveals wide variability in alignment with WHO guidelines and limited confidence in providing palliative care. Study findings will inform targeted educational interventions, which must be tailored to the local political, economic, and cultural context.
Background and objective: Though idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) has worse outcomes compared to most malignancies, patients with IPF receive poor access to optimal palliative care. This study aimed to characterise the practice of pulmonologist’s regarding palliative care and end of life communication for patients with IPF and identify perceived difficulties and barriers thereto.
Methods: Self-administered questionnaires were sent by mail to representative pulmonologists from Shizuoka prefecture, Japan. Physician-reported practice, difficulties, timing of end of life communication and barriers related to palliative care were investigated.
Results: Among the 135 participants, 130 (96%) completed the questionnaire. Most of the participants reported that patients with IPF complained of dyspnoea and cough. However, less morphine was prescribed for IPF than for lung cancer. The participants experienced greater difficulty in providing palliative care for IPF than for lung cancer. Moreover, actual end of life discussions in patients with IPF were conducted later than the physician-perceived ideal timing. Among the barriers identified, few established treatment and difficulty in predicting prognosis [odds ratio (OR) 2.0; p = 0.04], discrepancies in understanding and care goals among patients, family and medical staff (OR 2.2; p = 0.03) and inadequate communication about goal of care (OR 2.3; p = 0.003) were significantly associated with the physician-perceived difficulties in providing palliative care for patients with IPF.
Conclusions: Pulmonologists experienced greater difficulty in providing palliative care to patients with IPF than to those with lung cancer. Clinical studies on the optimal palliative care for patients with IPF are urgently required.
L’objectif de l’étude est d’identifier les freins et les leviers à la mise en place de la démarche palliative en EHPAD. C’est une étude ancillaire. Nous avons mené une enquête qualitative par entretiens semi-directifs auprès de médecins coordonnateurs d’EHPAD en Lorraine. Le recueil de données a débuté en janvier 2018 et s’est achevé en juin 2018. Les verbatim ont été analysés par théorisation ancrée. Onze médecins coordonnateurs ont participé à notre enquête. L’analyse met en évidence des contraintes structurelles et conjoncturelles propres à l’EHPAD dont l’absence de permanence médicale et infirmière, les limites des moyens matériels et personnels, ainsi que la possibilité des EHPAD intra-hospitaliers de s’affranchir de ces contraintes. La sensibilisation et la formation des acteurs de la prise en soins ont été identifiées comme des leviers majeurs dans la prise en charge palliative. À l’inverse, le manque de formation est apparu comme un obstacle. L’intervention des équipes ressources hospitalisation à domicile et équipe mobile de soins palliatifs est décrite comme un appui primordial. L’analyse a montré que l’organisation et la coopération des différents acteurs est un enjeu majeur pour la mise en place de la démarche palliative. Les dispositifs de personne de confiance et directives anticipées sont mal utilisés et ne sont d’aucune aide à la démarche palliative dans les EHPAD. Ainsi, la majorité des freins identifiés par l’enquête sont les contraintes structurelles et le manque de formation. Le principal levier à développer semble être celui de la formation, aux soins palliatifs et à l’utilisation des différents outils crées pour contourner les contraintes structurelles.
Background: The importance of advance care planning (ACP) has been recognized in the palliative are of patients with heart failure. It is necessary for dissemination of ACP to characterize the perceptions
of physicians and nurses towards ACP and to promote mutual understanding. The aim of this study is to investigate the perceptions of physicians and nurses concerning ACP for patients with heart failure.
Methods: We conducted a self-administered questionnaire survey with physicians and nurses who belonged to the 427 certified institutions for implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) and/or cardiac
resynchronization therapy (CRT) in Japan. The self-administered questionnaire was originally designed based on the guidelines on palliative care or ACP and previous studies on the barriers of ACP. We asked the participants the recognition about condition/timing to implement ACP, Content of care to be implemented in ACP, and barriers against implementing ACP. A Mann-Whitney U test was performed and r value was calculated an effect size (ES) in order to evaluate the characteristic perceptions among physicians and nurses.
Results: Valid responses were obtained from 163 physicians (38.2%) and 208 nurses (48.7%). Regarding the condition/timing, nurses tended to recognize that ACP should be implemented from earlier clinical
stages than physicians. Regarding the contents of ACP, both physicians and nurses placed emphasis in assessing the patient’s perception of disease progression. The biggest difference was found in the item
“Ask patient about what has been important in life so far”; 78.6% of physicians but 94.2% of nurses chose “it must/should be implemented” (Cohen’s r=0.31). Regarding the barriers, both physicians and nurses
recognized the difficulty in prognosis prediction. The biggest differences were found in the items “Medical staff does not know how to implement ACP for patients and their families” (45.6% of physicians and 70.4% of nurses chose “strongly agree/agree”, r=0.27), and “There is disagreement regarding care goals among team members of different professions” (18.5% in physicians and 43.3% in nurses, r=0.27).
Conclusions: It is suggested that discussions and further studies are necessary concerning the condition/timing of implementing ACP from early stages, specific manuals/protocols and recommendation on rolesharing within a multidisciplinary team.
Background: The challenges of supporting the end-of-life preferences of patients and their families have often been attributed to poor understanding of the patient’s condition. Understanding how physicians, as patients, communicate their end-of-life care preferences to their families may inform shared decision making at end of life.
Objectives: The purpose of this study was to understand what matters to families of physicians when decision making with and for a physician who is approaching the end of life.
Design: Cross-sectional qualitative design.
Participants: We conducted interviews with family members of deceased physicians.
Approach: We analyzed the data using the constant comparison method to identify themes.
Key results: Family members (N = 26) rarely were unclear about the treatment preferences of physicians who died. Three overarching themes emerged about what matters most to physicians’ families: (1) honoring preferences for the context of end-of-life care; (2) supporting the patient’s control and dignity in care; and, (3) developing a shared understanding of preferences. Families struggled to make decisions and provide the care needed by the physicians at the end of life, often encountering significant challenges from the healthcare system.
Conclusions: Even when disease and prognosis are well understood as in this group of physicians, families still experienced difficulties in end-of-life decision making. These findings highlight the need to specifically address preferences for caregiver, care setting and symptom management in shared end-of-life decision making conversations with patients and families.
Background: Decision making regarding the treatment of neonates with poor prognoses is difficult for healthcare staff working in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). This study aimed to investigate the attitudes of physicians and nurses about the value of life and ethical decision making when encountering neonates with poor prognosis in the NICU.
Methods: This cross-sectional study was conducted in five NICUs of five hospitals in Tehran city, Iran. The attitudes of 144 pediatricians, gynecologists and nurses were assessed using the questionnaire of attitude toward the value of life and agreement on intensive care management based on three hypothetical case scenarios of neonates with poor prognosis. Data were analyzed using descriptive and inferential statistics via the SPSS software.
Results: The negative agreement on the no initiation of intensive care measures and the discontinuation of resuscitation in neonates with poor prognosis was more than the positive agreement. Also, various factors influenced the participants' decision making for the provision of care to neonates. Regarding the case scenarios, the participants agreed on the provision of aggressive, conservative, and palliative care with various frequencies. This study confirms the importance of healthcare providers' perspectives and their impacts on ethical decision making. The participants favored the value or sacredness of life and agreed on the use of all therapeutic measures for saving the lives of neonates with poor prognosis.
Conclusion: More studies are required to improve our understandings of factors influencing ethical decision making by healthcare providers when encountering neonates with poor prognosis in NICUs.
Elisabeth Kübler-Ross' seminal 1969 work, On Death and Dying, opened the door to understanding individuals' emotional experiences with serious illness and dying. Patient's emotions, however, are only half the story in the patient-physician relationship. In recent years physicians' emotional reactions have gotten more attention. These sometimes-unacknowledged emotions influence how we approach our work, including life and death decisions. This article reviews some of the main emotions physicians experience when caring for seriously ill and dying patients and the challenges physicians face in regulating their emotions in a professional setting. We also discuss some of the ways that physician emotion may influence medical decision-making and contribute to conflict. Attention to the emotional level of physician experience may promote better care.
Death rattle occurs during the last days of life, and relatives of those afflicted frequently report that it is very distressful. However, there is no effective treatment for it. The purpose of this study was to investigate the perceptions of Japanese palliative care physicians in clinical practice in Japan. We conducted a nationwide survey of 268 physicians via an anonymous, self-report questionnaire. We assessed pharmacological and non-pharmacological management and anticholinergic agent choice. One hundred eighty-nine physicians (70.5%) returned the questionnaires. Fifty-five participants (29.1%) treating patients with Type-1 (real death rattle) and 36 participants (19%) treating patients with Type-2 (pseudo-death rattle) death rattle reported that they would frequently administer an anticholinergic agent. One-fourth would administer scopolamine butylbromide or scopolamine hydrobromide. In conclusion, more Japanese palliative care physicians thought that anticholinergic agents might be effective for treating Type-1 death rattle rather than Type-2. Further clinical trials of these agents are needed.
Objectives: Facilitating a high quality of death is an important aspect of comfort care for patients in ICUs. The quality of death in ICUs has been rarely reported in Asian countries. Although Korea is currently in the early stage after the implementation of the “well-dying” law, this seems to have a considerable effect on practice. In this study, we aimed to understand the status of quality of death in Korean ICUs as perceived by medical staff, and to elucidate factors affecting patient quality of death.
Design: A multicenter cross-sectional survey study.
Setting: Medical ICUs of two tertiary-care teaching hospitals and two secondary-care hospitals.
Patients: Deceased patients from June 2016 to May 2017.
Interventions: Relevant medical staff were asked to complete a translated Quality of Dying and Death questionnaire within 48 hours after a patient’s death. A higher Quality of Dying and Death score (ranged from 0 to 100) corresponded to a better quality of death.
Measurements and Main Results: A total of 416 completed questionnaires were obtained from 177 medical staff (66 doctors and 111 nurses) of 255 patients. All 20 items of the Quality of Dying and Death received low scores. Quality of death perceived by nurses was better than that perceived by doctors (33.1 ± 18.4 vs 29.7 ± 15.3; p = 0.042). Performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation and using inotropes within 24 hours before death were associated with poorer quality of death, whereas using analgesics was associated with better quality of death.
Conclusions: The quality of death of patients in Korean ICUs was considerably poorer than reported in other countries. Provision of appropriate comfort care, avoidance of unnecessary life-sustaining care, and permission for more frequent visits from patients’ families may correspond to better quality of death in Korean medical ICUs. It is also expected that the new legislation would positively affect the quality of death in Korean ICUs.
Background: Although statements on the competencies required from physicians working within palliative care exist, these requirements have not been described within different levels of palliative care provision by multi-professional workshops, comprising representatives from working life. Therefore, the aim of this study was to describe the competencies required from physicians working within palliative care from the perspectives of multi-professional groups of representatives from working life.
Methods: A qualitative approach, using a workshop method, was conducted, wherein the participating professionals and representatives of patient organizations discussed the competencies that are required in palliative care, before reaching and documenting a consensus. The data (n = 222) was collected at workshops held in different parts of Finland and it was analyzed using a qualitative content analysis method.
Results: The description of the competencies required of every physician working within palliative care at the general level included 13 main categories and 50 subcategories in total. ‘Competence in advanced care planning and decision-making’ was the main category which was obtained from the highest number of reduced expressions from the original data (f = 125). Competence in social interactions was another strong main category (f = 107). In specialist level data, six main categories with 22 subcategories in total were found. ‘Competence in complex symptom management’ was the main category which was obtained from the biggest number of reduced expressions (f = 46). A notable association between general level and specialist level data was related to networking, since one of the general level categories was ‘Competence in consultations and networking’ (f = 34) and one of the specialist level categories was ‘Competence to offer consultative and educational support to other professionals’ (f = 30). Moreover, part of the specialist level results were subcategories which belonged to the main categories produced from the general level data.
Conclusions: The competencies described in this study emphasize decision-making, social interactions and networking. It is important to listen to the voices of the working-life representatives when planning curricula. Moreover, the views of the working-life representatives inform how the competencies gained during their education meet the challenges of the ordinary work.
As of mid-April 2020, there have been nearly 2 million confirmed cases of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), and more than 100 000 people have died. This historic pandemic has upended daily life globally and forced rationing in some of the world’s most high-income countries. To stem escalation of COVID-19, the World Health Organization has called for the deferral of elective surgery to divert personnel and equipment to patients with COVID-19. Thus, in the near term, surgical care is largely restricted to patients with the most severe illnesses and patients who are symptomatic and hospitalized (with any condition). Surgeons will also provide surgical and critical care for patients with COVID-19, a life-threatening virus that gives some affected individuals severe dyspnea or the need for a ventilator and thus isolates them from loved ones within days or weeks of onset. The experience in China and Italy warns other countries that the upcoming months will bring immeasurable pain to patients, families, and clinicians.
The need for palliative medicine has grown exponentially with the emergence of COVID-19. The current pandemic presents an opportunity for surgeons interested in surgical palliative care to establish themselves as the surgical palliative care champion in their group. Multimedia resources for skill acquisition and community integration are referenced.