In this issue of JAMA, Lee and colleagues examine the association between Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST), which involve portable medical orders that document treatment limitations for out-of-hospital emergency care and for limiting overtreatment at the end of life. The authors studied adults with chronic life-limiting illnesses who were hospitalized within the last 6 months of life and who had completed a POLST before their last inpatient admission. Among 1818 patients enrolled, 656 (36%) had POLST orders for “full treatment” and 1162 had orders for either “limited additional interventions” (761 [42%]) or “comfort measures only” (401 [22%]). Among the combined latter 2 groups, 472 (41%) were admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU), 436 (38%) received POLST-discordant intensive care, and 204 (18%) received POLST-discordant life-sustaining treatments, defined as mechanical ventilation, vasoactive infusions, new renal replacement therapy, or cardiopulmonary resuscitation. Patients with cancer or dementia were less likely to receive POLST-discordant intensive care, whereas patients hospitalized for traumatic injuries were more likely to receive POLST-discordant intensive care. These results are sobering.
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Importance: Patients with chronic illness frequently use Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST) to document treatment limitations.
Objectives: To evaluate the association between POLST order for medical interventions and intensive care unit (ICU) admission for patients hospitalized near the end of life.
Design, Setting, and Participants: Retrospective cohort study of patients with POLSTs and with chronic illness who died between January 1, 2010, and December 31, 2017, and were hospitalized 6 months or less before death in a 2-hospital academic health care system.
Exposures: POLST order for medical interventions (“comfort measures only” vs “limited additional interventions” vs “full treatment”), age, race/ethnicity, education, days from POLST completion to admission, histories of cancer or dementia, and admission for traumatic injury.
Main Outcomes and Measures: The primary outcome was the association between POLST order and ICU admission during the last hospitalization of life; the secondary outcome was receipt of a composite of 4 life-sustaining treatments: mechanical ventilation, vasopressors, dialysis, and cardiopulmonary resuscitation. For evaluating factors associated with POLST-discordant care, the outcome was ICU admission contrary to POLST order for medical interventions during the last hospitalization of life.
Results: Among 1818 decedents (mean age, 70.8 [SD, 14.7] years; 41% women), 401 (22%) had POLST orders for comfort measures only, 761 (42%) had orders for limited additional interventions, and 656 (36%) had orders for full treatment. ICU admissions occurred in 31% (95% CI, 26%-35%) of patients with comfort-only orders, 46% (95% CI, 42%-49%) with limited-interventions orders, and 62% (95% CI, 58%-66%) with full-treatment orders. One or more life-sustaining treatments were delivered to 14% (95% CI, 11%-17%) of patients with comfort-only orders and to 20% (95% CI, 17%-23%) of patients with limited-interventions orders. Compared with patients with full-treatment POLSTs, those with comfort-only and limited-interventions orders were significantly less likely to receive ICU admission (comfort only: 123/401 [31%] vs 406/656 [62%], aRR, 0.53 [95% CI, 0.45-0.62]; limited interventions: 349/761 [46%] vs 406/656 [62%], aRR, 0.79 [95% CI, 0.71-0.87]). Across patients with comfort-only and limited-interventions POLSTs, 38% (95% CI, 35%-40%) received POLST-discordant care. Patients with cancer were significantly less likely to receive POLST-discordant care than those without cancer (comfort only: 41/181 [23%] vs 80/220 [36%], aRR, 0.60 [95% CI, 0.43-0.85]; limited interventions: 100/321 [31%] vs 215/440 [49%], aRR, 0.63 [95% CI, 0.51-0.78]). Patients with dementia and comfort-only orders were significantly less likely to receive POLST-discordant care than those without dementia (23/111 [21%] vs 98/290 [34%], aRR, 0.44 [95% CI, 0.29-0.67]). Patients admitted for traumatic injury were significantly more likely to receive POLST-discordant care (comfort only: 29/64 [45%] vs 92/337 [27%], aRR, 1.52 [95% CI, 1.08-2.14]; limited interventions: 51/91 [56%] vs 264/670 [39%], aRR, 1.36 [95% CI, 1.09-1.68]). In patients with limited-interventions orders, older age was significantly associated with less POLST-discordant care (aRR, 0.93 per 10 years [95% CI, 0.88-1.00]).
Conclusions and Relevance: Among patients with POLSTs and with chronic life-limiting illness who were hospitalized within 6 months of death, treatment-limiting POLSTs were significantly associated with lower rates of ICU admission compared with full-treatment POLSTs. However, 38% of patients with treatment-limiting POLSTs received intensive care that was potentially discordant with their POLST.
Background: There is no evidence on effectiveness of Advance care planning (ACP) among heart failure (HF) patients. We examined the effect of an ACP program in facilitating EOL care consistent with HF patients’ preferences (primary aim), and on their decisional conflict, discussion with surrogates, illness understanding, anxiety, depression and quality of life (secondary aims).
Methods: We randomized 282 HF patients to receive ACP (n=93) or usual care (control arm, n=189). Primary outcomes were assessed among deceased (n=89) and secondary outcomes from baseline and 6 follow-ups conducted every 4 months.
Results: Deceased patients in ACP arm were no more likely than those in control arm to have wishes followed for EOL treatments (ACP: 35%, Control: 44%; p=0.47), or place of death (ACP: 52%, Control: 51%; p-value=1.00). A higher proportion in ACP arm had wishes followed for cardiopulmonary resuscitation (ACP: 83%, Control: 62%; p=0.12). At first follow-up, ACP patients had lower decisional conflict (ß=-10.8, p <0.01) and were more likely to discuss preferences with surrogates (ß=1.3, p=0.04). ACP did not influence other outcomes.
Conclusion: This trial did not confirm that our ACP program was effective in facilitating EOL care consistent with their preferences. The program led to short-term improvements in the decision-making.
AIM: The awareness for the need for end-of-life care has increased among noncancer patients. However, studies on the topic have rarely targeted the needs of noncancer patients who want to die at home. This study assessed the end-of-life care needs of noncancer patients who were receiving care and wanted to die at home.
METHODS: A cross-sectional study design was used and involved 200 participants who were diagnosed as noncancer patients and receiving home care nursing. Data were collected on demographics, disease, Palliative Performance Scale (PPS) scores, and end-of-life care needs, in April and May, 2016.
RESULTS: Among the six areas of care, "supporting fundamental needs" of patients required the most care, followed by "coordination among family or relatives." Multivariate analysis revealed that the duration of home care nursing held a significant association with end-of-life care needs.
CONCLUSION: By reflecting on the comprehensive care needs of patients with chronic illnesses and including them in the care process, it will be possible to provide better quality palliative care to patients at home in the end-of-life stages.
PURPOSE: The 3 Wishes Project (3WP) promotes holistic end-of-life care in the intensive care unit (ICU) to honor dying patients, support families, and encourage clinician compassion. Organ donation is a wish that is sometimes made by, or on behalf of, critically ill patients. Our objective was to describe the interface between the 3WP and organ donation as experienced by families, clinicians, and organ donation coordinators.
METHODS: In a multicenter evaluation of the 3WP in 4 Canadian ICUs, we conducted a thematic analysis of transcripts from interviews and focus groups with clinicians, organ donation coordinators, and families of dying or died patients for whom donation was considered.
RESULTS: We analyzed transcripts from 26 interviews and 2 focus groups with 18 family members, 17 clinicians, and 6 organ donation coordinators. The central theme describes the mutual goals of the 3WP and organ donation-emphasizing personhood and agency across the temporal continuum of care. During family decision-making, conversations encouraged by the 3WP can facilitate preliminary discussions about donation. During preparation for donation, memory-making activities supported by the 3WP redirect focus toward personhood. During postmortem family care, the 3WP supports families, including when donation is unsuccessful, and highlights aspirational pursuits of donation while encouraging reflections on other fulfilled wishes.
CONCLUSIONS: Organ donation and the 3WP provide complementary opportunities to engage in value-based conversations during the dying process. The shared values of these programs may help to incorporate organ donation and death into a person's life narrative and incorporate new life into a person's death narrative.
We examined people’s preferences for place of death and identified factors associated with a home death preference. We asked a representative sample (N = 400) of older people (= 60 years) residents in the city of Belo Horizonte, about their preferences for place of death in a situation of serious illness with less than a year to live. Data were analyzed using binomial regression to identify associated factors. 52.2% indicate home as the preferred place of death. Five variables were associated with preference for death at home: those living with 1 child (odds ratio (OR)0.41; 95% confidence interval (CI):0.18-0.92; ref: without children); being in education for up to 4 years (OR0.42; 95% CI:0.20-0.89; ref: higher education); finding it difficult to live with the present income (OR3.18; 95% CI:1.53-6.62; ref: living comfortably); self-assessed fair overall health (OR2.07; 95% CI:1.06-4.03; ref: very good health) and selecting “choosing who makes decisions about your care” as the care priority that would matter to them the most (OR2.43; 95%CI:1.34-4.40; ref: dying in the place you want). Most respondents chose home as preferred place of death. However, most residents of Belo Horizonte die in hospitals, suggesting that preferences are not being considered.
BACKGROUND: Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST) forms are portable medical orders documenting patient treatment preferences in an acute health decline. It is unclear how these forms are used in the management of elderly trauma patients.
METHODS: Patients 65 years and older presenting to a Level I trauma center were identified between 2012 and 2017. Hospital trauma registry and medical records were used to identify a preinjury POLST and its acknowledgment by providers within 24 hours of arrival. A 1:1 propensity score matched sample was used to evaluate clinical outcomes based on the presence of a POLST limiting interventions with p less than 0.05 deemed significant.
RESULTS: There were 3,342 elderly trauma patients identified. One hundred ninety-two (6%) had a POLST identified by the institutional trauma registry dated before the injury. Do not attempt resuscitation (DNR) was listed in 154 patients (80%), and 79% desired to avoid the intensive care unit (ICU) with limited (54%) or comfort measures only (CMO, 25%). One hundred seven (76%) of admitted POLST DNR patients had a DNR code status for the majority of their admission. 59 (58%) of the limited and 29 (60%) of the comfort measures only patients were admitted to the ICU. Acknowledgment of a preinjury POLST or code status was explicitly documented in 110 cases (57%). Propensity score analysis yielded a comparison sample of 288 patients. In the matched comparison, an acknowledged POLST with limitations was associated with a shorter ICU stay (1.7 vs. 2.8 days, p = 0.008) but there was no difference in ICU admission (58% vs. 61%, p = 0.69), total length of stay (3.8 days vs. 4.8 days, p = 0.08), or in-hospital mortality (13% vs. 8%, p = 0.2).
CONCLUSION: Limited provider acknowledgment of preinjury medical directives necessitates protocol development for the management of frail elderly trauma patients. When acknowledged, patients with a POLST limiting interventions had fewer ICU days without increased in-hospital mortality compared with similarly injured elderly patients.
LEVEL OF EVIDENCE: Care Management, level IV.
To avoid discomfort, health care professionals may hesitate to pursue conversations about end of life with patients. Certain tools have the potential to facilitate smoother conversations in this matter. The objective was to explore the experiences of patients in palliative care in using statement cards to talk about their wishes and priorities. Forty-six cards with statements of wishes and priorities were developed and tested for feasibility with 40 participants, who chose the 10 most important cards and shared their thoughts about the statements and conversation. Data from individual interviews and field notes were analyzed using content analysis. One category describes practical aspects of using the cards including the relevance of the content and the process of sorting the cards. The second category describes the significance of using the cards including becoming aware of what is important, sharing wishes and priorities, and reflecting on whether wishes and priorities change closer to death. The cards helped raise awareness and verbalize wishes and priorities. All statements were considered relevant. The conversations focused not only on death and dying, but also on challenges in the participants' current life situation. For the most ill and frail participants, the number of cards needs to be reduced.
Years ago, I began a research project with colleagues to demonstrate that physicians receive different, and arguably better, end-of-life care because of our greater knowledge about dying. We hypothesized, as had others, that physicians would be more likely to die at home, less likely to die in an ICU, and would generally receive less “aggressive” care. It took years to complete the study. The findings were not what we had expected: physicians did receive more palliative care, but also were more likely to die in an ICU and among those with cancer, more likely to receive chemotherapy in the last 6 months of life; it was more of everything.
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Purpose: Patients with advanced cancer often receive suboptimal end-of-life (EOL) care. Particularly males with advanced cancer are more likely to receive EOL care that is more aggressive, even if death is imminent. Critical factors determining EOL care are EOL conversations or advance care planning. However, information about gender-related factors influencing EOL conversations is lacking. Therefore, the current study investigates gender differences concerning the content, the desired time point, and the mode of initiation of EOL conversations in cancer patients.
Methods: In a cross-sectional study, 186 female and male cancer patients were asked about their preferences for EOL discussions using a semi-structured interview, focusing on (a) the importance of six different topics (medical and nursing care, organizational, emotional, social, and spiritual/religious aspects), (b) the desired time point, and (c) the mode of discussion initiation.
Results: The importance of EOL topics differs significantly regarding issue (p = 0.002, 2 = 0.02) and gender (p < 0.001, 2 = 0.11). Males wish to avoid the engagement in discussions about death and dying particularly if they are anxious about their end-of-life period. They wish to be addressed regarding the “hard facts” nursing and medical care only. In contrast, females prefer to speak more about “soft facts” and to be addressed about each EOL topic. Independent of gender, the majority of patients prefer to talk rather late: when the disease is getting worse (58%), at the end of their therapy, or when loosing self-sufficiency (27.5%).
Conclusion: The tendency of patients to talk late about EOL issues increases the risk of delayed or missed EOL conversations, which may be due to a knowledge gap regarding the possibility of disease-associated incapability. Furthermore, there are significant gender differences influencing the access to EOL conversations. Therefore, for daily clinical routine, we suggest an early two-step, gender-sensitive approach to end-of-life conversations.
BACKGROUND: Early, high-quality serious illness (SI) conversations are critical for patients with glioblastoma (GBM) but are often mistimed or mishandled.
OBJECTIVE: To describe the prevalence, timing, and quality of documented SI conversations and evaluate their focus on patient goals/priorities.
DESIGN/PARTICIPANTS: Thirty-three patients with GBM enrolled in the control group of a randomized controlled trial of a communication intervention and were followed for 2 years or until death. At baseline, all patients answered a validated question about preferences for life-extending versus comfort-focused care and completed a Life Priorities Survey about their goals/priorities. In this secondary analysis, retrospective chart review was performed for 18 patients with GBM who died. Documented SI conversations were systematically identified and evaluated using a codebook reflecting 4 domains: prognosis, goals/priorities, end-of-life planning, and life-sustaining treatments. Patient goals/priorities were compared to documentation.
MEASUREMENTS/RESULTS: At baseline, 16 of 24 patients preferred life-extending care. In the Life Priorities Survey, goals/priorities most frequently ranked among the top 3 were "Live as long as possible," "Be mentally aware," "Provide support for family," "Be independent," and "Be at peace." Fifteen of 18 patients had at least 1 documented SI conversation (range: 1-4). Median timing of the first documented SI conversation was 84 days before death (range: 29-231; interquartile range: 46-119). Fifteen patients had documentation about end-of-life planning, with "hospice" and "palliative care" most frequently documented. Five of 18 patients had documentation about their goals.
CONCLUSION: Patients with GBM had multiple goals/priorities with potential treatment implications, but documentation showed SI conversations occurred relatively late and infrequently reflected patient goals/priorities.
BACKGROUND: While patient-centered care is recommended as a key dimension for quality improvement, in case of serious illness, patients may have different expectations regarding information and participation in medical decision-making. In oncology, anticipation of disease worsening remains difficult, especially when patient's preferences towards prognosis medical information are unclear. Valid tools to explore patients' preferences could help targeting end-of-life discussions, which have been shown to decrease aggressiveness of end-of-life care. Our aim was to establish the validity and reliability of the French version of the Autonomy Preference Index (API) among patients with incurable cancer and in primary care setting. Three supplementary items were specifically developed to evaluate preparedness to anticipate disease deterioration among patients with incurable cancer.
METHODS: The psychometric properties of the API translated into French were assessed among patients consecutively recruited from January to March 2017 in the waiting rooms of 19 general practitioners (N = 391) and in an oncology (N = 187) clinic in Paris. Relationships between the newly-developed items and the API subscale scores were studied.
RESULTS: A three correlated factors confirmatory model (two factors related to decision-making and a factor related to information-seeking preferences) showed an acceptable fit on the whole sample and no measurement invariance issue was found across settings, age, sex and educational level. Internal consistency and test-retest reliability were acceptable for the information-seeking and decision-making subscales. One of the newly-developed items on patients' ability to anticipate a decision on the use of artificial respiration if a sudden deterioration of their illness occurred was not related to the API subscale scores.
CONCLUSION: The French version of the API was found valid and reliable for use in general practice and oncology settings. The additional items on patient preparedness to anticipate disease deterioration can be of interest to ensure that patient values guide all end-of-life clinical decisions.
BACKGROUND: High-quality shared decision-making for patients undergoing elective surgical procedures includes eliciting patient goals and treatment preferences. This is particularly important, should complications occur and life-sustaining therapies be considered. Our objective was to determine the preoperative care preferences of older higher-risk patients undergoing elective procedures and to determine any factors associated with a preference for limitations to life-sustaining treatments.
METHODS: Cross-sectional survey conducted between May and December 2018. Patients =55 years of age presenting for a preprocedural evaluation in a high-risk anesthesia clinic were queried on their desire for life-sustaining treatments (cardiopulmonary resuscitation, mechanical ventilation, dialysis, and artificial nutrition) as well as tolerance for declines in health states (physical disability, cognitive disability, and daily severe pain).
RESULTS: One hundred patients completed the survey. The median patient age was 68. Most patients were Caucasian (87%) and had an American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) score of III (88%). The majority of patients (89%) desired cardiopulmonary resuscitation. However, most patients would not accept mechanical ventilation, dialysis, or artificial nutrition for an indefinite period of time. Similarly, most patients (67%–81%) indicated they would not desire treatments to sustain life in the event of permanent physical disability, cognitive disability, or daily severe pain.
CONCLUSIONS: Among older, higher-risk patients presenting for elective procedures, most patients chose limitations to life-sustaining treatments. This work highlights the need for an in-depth goals of care discussion and establishment of advance care preferences before a procedure or operative intervention.
INTRODUCTION: Patients faced with incurable cancer may experience a lack of support from their physician throughout and after treatment. Studies on the needs and experiences of these patients are scarce. In this study, we explored the needs and experiences of patients diagnosed with incurable cancer regarding the conversation, in which they were told that their cancer was incurable, the care received after this conversation, and their preferences regarding end-of-life conversations.
METHODS: Data were cross-sectionally collected through a national online survey in the Netherlands (September 2018). Descriptive statistics and correlation coefficients were reported and subgroups were compared.
RESULTS: Six hundred fifty-four patients (mean age 60 years; 58% women) completed the survey. Patients were primarily diagnosed with breast cancer (22%) or a hematological malignancy (21%). Patients reported a strong need for emotional support during the conversation, in which they were told their cancer was incurable (mean score 8.3; scale 1-10). Their experienced satisfaction with received emotional support was mediocre (mean score 6.4; scale 1-10). Of those patients who felt like they did not receive any additional care (37%) after the diagnosis, the majority expressed a clear need for this kind of care (59%). Mostly, support pertained to psychosocial issues. Regarding conversations about the end of life, most patients (62%) expressed a need to discuss this topic, and preferred their healthcare provider to initiate this conversation.
CONCLUSION: Care for patients with incurable cancer can be further improved by tailoring conversations to specific needs and timely providing appropriate supportive care services.
Background: It is important to enhance physicians' understanding of patients' wishes at the end of life (EOL) for improving palliative care system.
Method: This was a cross-sectional study aimed to examine and compare the preferences and perceptions of elderly patients and physicians regarding what they feel constitutes a good death. Participants were asked about their preferences, and physicians were also asked the care they would recommend for patients. The participants' results were compared, as were the physicians' preferences regarding their own care and that regarding patients' EOL care.
Results: A higher proportion of patients than physicians wished to be conscious toward the last hour of life and to pass away at home. The higher proportion of physicians agreed with most of the statements on the questionnaire when asked about their EOL care than when asked about that of patients, particularly not prolonging suffering.
Conclusion: There were some differences between patients' and physicians' preferences regarding EOL care. Better communication between them may help to close this gap.
CONTEXT: Most of the 20,000 US children dying of serious illnesses annually die in the hospital. It is unknown if this hospital death predominance reflects family wishes or systemic issues such as lack of hospice access. Hence, we need to better understand location of death preferences for children and their families.
OBJECTIVE: To better understand location of death preferences in North America, we reviewed the literature to examine the evidence for and against home death in seriously ill children (0-18years).
METHODS: We searched English articles in PubMed, PsycINFO, and Embase published 2000-2018 for articles related to parental, child/adolescent, and provider preference for death location and articles that correlated death location with bereavement or quality of life outcomes.
RESULTS: The search results (n=877 articles and n=58 abstracts of interest) were reviewed and 34 relevant articles were identified. Parent, child, and provider preferences, bereavement outcomes, and associated factors all point to some preference for home death. These findings should be interpreted with several caveats: 1) Many studies are small and prone to selection bias, 2) Not all families prefer home death and some that do are not able to achieve home death due to inadequate home support, 3) Studies of bereavement outcomes are lacking.
CONCLUSION: Adequate resources are needed to ensure children can die in their chosen location - be that home, hospital, or free-standing hospice. This review highlights research areas needed to better understand death location preference and programs and policies that will support home death for those that desire it.
BACKGROUND: Achieving the preference of place of care and place of death of patients is a quality marker in palliative care. From a recent study, around 30% of the Hong Kong general population wished to die at home. In our study, residential care home for the elderly (RCHE) was also considered as home. The objective of this study was to investigate the preference of place of care and place of death of terminal cancer patients who received palliative care service in Hong Kong. We would also investigate the facilitating and obstructing factors for home death. Common factors associating with the preference of home death would also be examined.
METHODS: A hospital-based cross-sectional questionnaire survey was conducted in a local palliative care unit from 3 December 2018 to 10 January 2019. Univariate analysis was performed to evaluate factors associated with the preference of home death.
RESULTS: Total 72 patients were recruited. Overall, 22 (30.6%) patients wished to die at home ideally. After concerning reality and different choices, only 13 (18.1%) patients preferred home death. The most common chosen facilitating factor for home death was to provide support to carers (12 patients, 92.3%). Five patients (38.5%) chose it as the most significant facilitating factor for home death. It was inconclusive for the most common chosen and most significant obstructing factor for home death. There were no statistically significant factors found to be associated with the preference of home death.
CONCLUSIONS: The preference of home death of terminal cancer patients in Hong Kong is low. We hope that understanding more of the obstructing and relieving factors for home death can facilitate home death in the future.
Background: The ethical principle of justice demands that resources be distributed equally and based on evidence. Guidelines regarding forgoing of CPR are unavailable and there is large variance in the reported rates of attempted CPR in in-hospital cardiac arrest. The main objective of this work was to study whether local culture and physician preferences may affect spur-of-the-moment decisions in unexpected in-hospital cardiac arrest.
Methods: Cross sectional questionnaire survey conducted among a convenience sample of physicians that likely comprise code team members in their country (Indonesia, Israel and Mexico). The questionnaire included details regarding respondent demographics and training, personal value judgments and preferences as well as professional experience regarding CPR and forgoing of resuscitation.
Results: Of the 675 questionnaires distributed, 617 (91.4%) were completed and returned. Country of practice and level of knowledge about resuscitation were strongly associated with avoiding CPR performance. Mexican physicians were almost twicemore likely to forgo CPR than their Israeli and Indonesian/Malaysian counterparts [OR1.84 (95% CI 1.03, 3.26), p = 0.038]. Mexican responders also placed greater emphasison personal and patient quality of life (p < 0.001). In multivariate analysis, degree of religiosity was most strongly associated with willingness to forgo CPR; orthodox respondents were more than twice more likely to report having forgone CPR for apatient they do not know than secular and observant respondents, regardless of the country of practice [OR 2.12 (95%CI 1.30, 3.46), p = 0.003].
Conclusions: In unexpected in-hospital cardiac arrest the decision to perform or withhold CPR may be affected by physician knowledge and local culture as well as personal preferences. Physician CPR training should include information regarding predictors of patient outcome at as well as emphasis on differentiating between patient and personal preferences in an emergency.
BACKGROUND: Although patients often prefer less rather than more treatment at the end of life, in the absence of contrary instructions, the medical profession's de facto position is to treat aggressively. It is unknown whether a computer-based decision aid can affect treatment choices.
METHODS: Secondary analysis of a single-center, single-blind randomized controlled trial of an advance care planning (ACP) intervention among 200 patients with stage IV cancer. Participants were randomized to intervention (Making Your Wishes Known, a values-neutral, educational, computer-based decision aid) or control (standard living will + brochure). After reading a hypothetical clinical vignette, participants were asked whether they would want 11 medical/surgical treatments in that situation (dialysis, cardiopulmonary resuscitation [CPR], ventilator, feeding tube, etc). The median number of treatments wanted by participants was compared between groups, and logistic regression was used to compare between-group likelihood of not wanting each specific treatment.
RESULTS: The median number of treatments wanted was 1 in the intervention group versus 5 in the control (P < .001). For 6 of 11 treatments, the intervention group was significantly less likely than control to want aggressive treatment. Most notably, compared to control, intervention participants were less likely to want CPR (odds ratio [OR] = 0.31), short-term mechanical ventilation (OR = 0.34), short-term dialysis (OR = 0.38), surgery (OR = 0.37), and transfusion (OR = 0.21).
CONCLUSIONS: Individuals using an educational ACP decision aid were less likely to want aggressive medical treatment than those completing standard living wills. These findings have implications not only for how to respect patient's wishes but also potentially for reducing costs at the end of life.
In the UK, life extending, end-of-life (EoL) treatments are an exception to standard cost-per-quality-adjusted life year (QALY) thresholds. This implies that greater value is placed on gaining these QALYs, than QALYs gained by the majority of other patient groups treated for anything else in the health system, even for other EoL contexts (such as quality of life (QoL) improvements alone). This paper reports a Person Trade-Off (PTO) study to test whether studies that find societal support for prioritising EoL life extensions can be explained by the severity, in terms of prospective QALYs loss, of the non-terminal comparator scenarios. Eight health scenarios were designed depicting i) QoL improvements for non-EoL temporary (T-QoL) and chronic (C-QoL) health problems and ii) QoL improvements and life extensions (LEs) for EoL health problems. Preferences were elicited from a quota sample of 901 Scottish respondents in 2016 using PTO techniques via Computer Assisted Personal Interview (CAPI). Our results indicate that there is little evidence to suggest that the severity of non-EoL comparator scenarios influence preferences for EoL treatments. Respondents do not appear to have a preference for EoL over non-EoL health gains; instead there is some indication that non-EoL health gains are preferred, particularly when compared to EoL-LE health gains. Comparing between QoL and life extending EoL scenarios, our results suggest QoL improvements are preferred to life extensions. Overall, results challenge current UK EoL policy which gives additional weight to EoL health gains, particularly EoL life extensions in the case of the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE).