In 2019, the Voluntary Assisted Dying Act 2017 (Vic) came into force. Thereupon, Victoria became the first State in Australia to enact such a law since the Commonwealth of Australia overturned Northern Territory legislation in 1997. Because of the difficulties in the introduction of Victorian law, it is extremely conservative, with many safeguards. There are significant limitations to this law which will result in significant ethical difficulties for medical practitioners and their patients. Four problematic areas of the law are discussed: the prohibition on health practitioners introducing the subject, introduction of the subject of voluntary assisted dying to patients; difficulties in obtaining access to treatment in certain populations in Victoria; the arbitrary minimum age of 18 to be able to access voluntary assisted dying; and the difficulties for patients and practitioners in evaluating the capacity of patients with mental illness and cognitive difficulties. Practical solutions to these difficulties will be proffered and discussed.
BACKGROUND: The management of medicines towards the end of life can place increasing burdens and responsibilities on patients and families. This has received little attention yet it can be a source of great difficulty and distress patients and families. Dose administration aids can be useful for some patients but there is no evidence for their wide spread use or the implications for their use as patients become increasing unwell. The study aimed to explore how healthcare professionals describe the support they provide for patients to manage medications at home at end of life.
METHODS: Qualitative interview study with thematic analysis. Participants were a purposive sample of 40 community healthcare professionals (including GPs, pharmacists, and specialist palliative care and community nurses) from across two English counties.
RESULTS: Healthcare professionals reported a variety of ways in which they tried to support patients to take medications as prescribed. While the paper presents some solutions and strategies reported by professional respondents it was clear from both professional and patient/family caregiver accounts in the wider study that rather few professionals provided this kind of support. Standard solutions offered included: rationalising the number of medications; providing different formulations; explaining what medications were for and how best to take them. Dose administration aids were also regularly provided, and while useful for some, they posed a number of practical difficulties for palliative care. More challenging circumstances such as substance misuse and memory loss required more innovative strategies such as supporting ways to record medication taking; balancing restricted access to controlled drugs and appropriate pain management and supporting patient choice in medication use.
CONCLUSIONS: The burdens and responsibilities of managing medicines at home for patients approaching the end of life has not been widely recognised or understood. This paper considers some of the strategies reported by professionals in the study, and points to the great potential for a more widely proactive stance in supporting patients and family carers to understand and take their medicines effectively. By adopting tailored, and sometimes, 'outside the box' thinking professionals can identify immediate, simple solutions to the problems patients and families experience with managing medicines.
OBJECTIVES: to establish the accuracy of community nurses' predictions of mortality among older people with multiple long-term conditions, to compare these with a mortality rating index and to assess the incremental value of nurses' predictions to the prognostic tool.
DESIGN: a prospective cohort study using questionnaires to gather clinical information about patients case managed by community nurses. Nurses estimated likelihood of mortality for each patient on a 5-point rating scale. The dataset was randomly split into derivation and validation cohorts. Cox proportional hazard models were used to estimate risk equations for the Revised Minimum Dataset Mortality Risk Index (MMRI-R) and nurses' predictions of mortality individually and combined. Measures of discrimination and calibration were calculated and compared within the validation cohort.
SETTING: two NHS Trusts in England providing case-management services by nurses for frail older people with multiple long-term conditions.
PARTICIPANTS: 867 patients on the caseload of 35 case-management nurses. 433 and 434 patients were assigned to the derivation and validation cohorts, respectively. Patients were followed up for 12 months.
RESULTS: 249 patients died (28.72%). In the validation cohort, MMRI-R demonstrated good discrimination (Harrell's c-index 0.71) and nurses' predictions similar discrimination (Harrell's c-index 0.70). There was no evidence of superiority in performance of either method individually (P = 0.83) but the MMRI-R and nurses' predictions together were superior to nurses' predictions alone (P = 0.01).
CONCLUSIONS: patient mortality is associated with higher MMRI-R scores and nurses' predictions of 12-month mortality. The MMRI-R enhanced nurses' predictions and may improve nurses' confidence in initiating anticipatory care interventions.
PURPOSE: To evaluate the perception of attending physicians, medical residents, and undergraduate medical students about death and dying, the end of life (EoL), and palliative care (PC) during training and clinical practice, highlighting knowledge gaps, and the changes needed in medical school curricula.
METHOD: Cross-sectional study of 12 attending physicians, residents, and undergraduate medical students randomly selected from a single teaching hospital in São Paulo, Brazil, 2018. Semi-structured interviews were conducted, transcripts were coded in depth, and categorizing analysis was carried out.
RESULTS: Three topical categories were recognized: Negative feelings about death and the EoL, importance of PC, and gaps in curricular structure hindering preparedness for PC and EoL communication. Besides differing perspectives depending on their years of experience, all participants strongly endorsed that the current medical school curriculum does not train and support physicians to handle EoL and PC.
CONCLUSIONS: Medical education plays a fundamental role in the development of knowledge and skills on death, dying, and PC. Such practices should extend throughout the course and be continuously improved after graduates move to clinical practice.
Hispanic Americans are among the fastest growing minority groups in the USA, and understanding their preferences for medical decision-making and information sharing is imperative to provide high quality end of life care. Studies exploring these decision control preferences (DCPs) are limited and found inconsistent results. (1) To measure DCPs of Hispanic patients in the Bronx. (2) To measure disclosure of information preferences of Hispanic patients in the Bronx. This is a cross-sectional survey. One hundred nineteen cancer patients who self-identified as Hispanic and were waiting at the oncology clinic at Montefiore Medical Center Cancer Center. Proportions of patients endorsing DCPs and disclosure of information preferences are reported. The relationship between patient characteristics and DCPs was tested using chi-squared tests of homogeneity. The majority (63, 52.9%) preferred shared decision-making with their doctors, families or both, while 46 (38.7%) had an active decision-making style. A minority (9, 7.6%) had a passive decision-making style, deferring to their families, and only 1 (0.8%) deferring to the physician. No demographic characteristics significantly predicted DCPs. The majority of patients agreed or strongly agreed that they wanted to hear all of the information regarding their diagnosis (94%), treatment options (94%), treatment expectations (92%), and treatment risks and benefits (96%). These results confirm our hypothesis that most Hispanic patients prefer either an active or shared decision-making process rather than a passive decision-making process. Most patients prefer disclosure of diagnosis, prognosis, and plan.
This paper argues that healthcare aims at the good of health, that this pursuit of the good necessitates conscience, and that conscience is required in every practical judgement, including clinical judgment. Conscientious objection in healthcare is usually restricted to a handful of controversial ends (e.g. abortion, euthanasia, contraception), yet the necessity of conscience in all clinical judgements implies the possibility of conscientious objection to means. The distinction between conscientious objection to means and ends is explored and its implications considered. Based on this, it is suggested that conscientious objection, whether to means or ends, occurs when a proposed course of action comes into irreconcilable conflict with the moral principle 'do no harm'. It is, therefore, concluded that conscientious objection in healthcare can be conceived as a requirement of the moral imperative to do no harm, the right to refuse to harm in regard to health.
BACKGROUND: There is a reliance on voluntary organisations in healthcare. Education is necessary to keep up-to-date with best practice. The authors' aim was to identify education priorities of voluntary organisations that support parents who experience pregnancy/perinatal loss, to inform the development of an education day.
METHOD: A modified Delphi study was undertaken to identify education needs. There were two Delphi rounds, inclusive of free text, where voluntary group experts reflected on responses in order to develop a consensus among the group.
RESULTS: There were 12 responses to Round One and seven responses to Round Two. From a list of 10 subjects, Round One identified 64 sub-topics, which were then determined as essential, desirable or not relevant in Round Two. The final 55 sub-topics were included in the education day.
CONCLUSION: This study identified educational needs of voluntary organisations. A standardised approach was necessary to develop an education day that is responsive to their learning needs.
BACKGROUND: This study was conducted to determine the effect of lavender oil on sleep quality and vital signs in palliative care patients.
METHODS: We examined 68 patients in a palliative care unit. Vital signs of all the patients were assessed, and also their sleep quality was evaluated using the Richards-Campbell Sleep Questionnaire. Lavender was applied to patients in the experimental group. During the intervention, vital signs of the patients were monitored at 4-h intervals throughout the night, and sleep quality was evaluated during the morning. The same evaluation processes were performed for the control group.
RESULTS: It was observed in the evaluation that lavender application did not affect the vital signs of the patients but it ensured a deeper sleep on the 2nd day after the intervention, facilitated their falling asleep and sleeping again when they were awakened and enhanced sleep quality (p < 0.05). Also, this application decreased the awakening frequency on the 1st and 2nd days and enhanced overall sleep quality (p < 0.05) after the intervention.
CONCLUSIONS: Lavender has no effect on the vital signs of palliative care patients but is an effective and reliable approach to enhance their sleep quality.
Background: A broad consensus on the optimal structure, intensity, and timing of early specialist palliative care (SPC) intervention is lacking.
Objective: To evaluate the benefit of an early and systematic palliative intervention alongside standard oncology care compared with standard oncology care alone in patients with advanced solid tumors.
Design: PALINT, a single-center RCT, conducted at the Masaryk Memorial Cancer Institute, the largest comprehensive cancer center in the Czech Republic (CR).
Setting/Subjects/Measurements: Patients with newly diagnosed advanced cancer within six weeks from the start of the palliative systemic therapy were randomly assigned to the integration of SPC (intervention; a consultation with a PC physician every six to eight weeks) or to the standard oncology care (control). The primary endpoint was the quality of life (QOL) assessed by EORTC QLQ C30 and Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS) at three and six months.
Results: From 2015 to 2017, a total of 126 patients were randomly assigned to intervention (60) or to control (66) arm. At baseline, at three and six months, the global QOL scores (mean, 95% CI) in the intervention and control arm were 58.6 (53.9–63.3), 61.9 (56.4–67.4) and 66.7 (60.2–73.2) versus 54.2 (49.4–58.9), 59.0 (53.7–64.3), and 62.8 (56.7–68.9), respectively. The prevalence of anxiety (HADS-A; value >7) was 36.7%, 27.5%, and 18.9% versus 34.8%, 23.5%, and 16.3% and the prevalence of depression (HADS-D; value >7) was 28.3%, 25.4%, and 29.7% versus 28.8%, 29.4%, and 27.9%, respectively. There was no significant difference between the two arms. The overall survival was similar in both arms (347 vs. 310 days; p = 0.203).
Conclusions: A model of early integration of SPC consisting of a consultation with a PC physician alone every six to eight weeks did not increase the QOL of patients with advanced cancer compared with routine oncology care in a center with widely available supportive services. These negative results underline the importance of the multidisciplinary patient centered approach in the early SPC.
BACKGROUND: There is a gap in knowledge about the kind and quality of care experienced by hospital patients at the end of their lives.
AIMS: To document and compare the patterns in end-of-life care for patients dying across a range of different medical units in an acute care hospital.
METHODS: A retrospective observational study of consecutive adult inpatient deaths between 1 July 2010 and 30 June 2014 in four different medical units of an Australian tertiary referral hospital was performed. Units were selected on the basis of highest inpatient death rates and included medical oncology, respiratory medicine, cardiology and gastroenterology/hepatology.
RESULTS: Overall, 41% of patients died with active medical treatment plans, but significantly more respiratory and cardiology patients died with ongoing treatment (46 and 75% respectively) than medical oncology and gastroenterology patients (each 27%, P < 0.05). More medical oncology and gastroenterology patients were recognised as dying (92 and 88%) compared with 72% of respiratory and only 38% of cardiology patients (P < 0.001). Significantly, more medical oncology patients were referred to palliative care and received comfort care plans than all other patient groups. However, the rate of non-palliative interventions given in the final 48 h was not significantly different between all four groups.
CONCLUSIONS: There were differences in managing the dying process between all disciplines. A possible solution to these discrepancies would be to create an integrated palliative care approach across the hospital. Improving and reducing interdisciplinary practice variations will allow more patients to have a high-quality and safe death in acute hospitals.
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.
Being diagnosed with an advanced liver disease (ALD), such as decompensated cirrhosis or hepatocellular carcinoma, has a dramatic impact on both life expectancy and quality of life for afflicted individuals. Although many scientific achievements in the field of hepatology have led to improved survival in these cohorts of patients, curative options are still unavailable for most. Much less attention has been paid to improving the quality of life for these patients, which is expected to be a growing need. Integrating principles of palliative care in the management of patients with ALD may be one way of solving this issue.
The complexities surrounding the dying process may distort rational decision-making and impact care at the end of life. Advance care planning, which focuses on identifying the individual's definition of quality of life, holds great potential to provide clarity at the end of life. Currently, young adults are not the intended audience for advance care planning. A quality improvement project engaged 36 college-age adults in structured group advance care planning discussions and evaluated the perceived value of a self-recorded advance directive. Findings from a pre- and postintervention survey suggested that young adults welcomed a conversation about end-of-life care; they wished for more information and expressed that a video-recorded advance directive stimulated thoughts about their own definition of quality of life. Participants' improved self-perception of comfort, confidence, certainty, and knowledge regarding the advance care planning process and end-of-life care indicated young adults may be a willing and eager population for the expansion of advance care planning. In addition to directing advance care planning to a younger audience, a personal video-recorded advance directive may complement the current advance care planning process and aid individuals in defining their quality of life.
The current empirical research and normative arguments on physician-assisted dying (PAD) in the Netherlands seem insufficient to provide ethical guidance to general practitioners in the practice of PAD, due to a gap between the evidence and arguments on the one hand and the uncertainties and complexities as found in everyday practice on the other. This paper addresses the problems of current ethical arguments and empirical research and how both seem to be profoundly influenced by the Dutch legislative framework on PAD and a certain view on ethics. Furthermore, the paper elaborates on how other approaches to empirical research in bioethics, such as found in the broad field of narrative research, could supplement the empirical and ethical evaluation of PAD in the Netherlands. This paper also addresses the challenging question of how empirical data-in this case narratives-relate to normativity. The paper is written in the form of a personal narrative of the author, a young Dutch general practitioner and researcher in bioethics. This style is intentionally chosen, to illustrate how work context and professional background influence the observations one makes and the questions one may ask about the topic of PAD. In addition, by using this style, this paper not only gives a different perspective on a much-contested bioethical issue, but also on the challenges faced when a physician-bioethicist has to navigate different disciplinary fields and (moral) epistemological paradigms, especially since the 'empirical turn' in bioethics.
The emergency department (ED) provides immediate access to medical care for patients and families in times of need. Increasingly, older patients with serious illness seek care in the ED, hoping for relief from symptoms and suffering associated with advanced disease. Until recently, emergency medicine (EM) clinicians have been ill-equipped to meet the needs of patients with serious illness, and palliative services have been largely unavailable in the ED. However, in the past decade, there has been growing recognition from within both the EM and palliative medicine communities on the importance of palliative care provision in the ED. The past 10 years have seen a surge in EM-palliative care training and education, quality improvement projects, and research. As a result, the practice paradigm within EM for the seriously ill has begun to shift to incorporate more palliative care practices. Despite this progress, substantial work has yet to be done in terms of identifying ED patients in need of palliative care, training EM clinicians to provide high-quality primary palliative care, creating pathways for ED referral to palliative care and hospice, and researching the outcomes and impact of palliative care provision on patients with serious illness in the ED.
Objectives: Hospital death is comparatively common in people with haematological cancers, but little is known about patient preferences. This study investigated actual and preferred place of death, concurrence between these and characteristics of preferred place discussions.
Methods: Set within a population-based haematological malignancy patient cohort, adults (=18 years) diagnosed 2004–2012 who died 2011–2012 were included (n=963). Data were obtained via routine linkages (date, place and cause of death) and abstraction of hospital records (diagnosis, demographics, preferred place discussions). Logistic regression investigated associations between patient and clinical factors and place of death, and factors associated with the likelihood of having a preferred place discussion.
Results: Of 892 patients (92.6%) alive 2 weeks after diagnosis, 58.0% subsequently died in hospital (home, 20.0%; care home, 11.9%; hospice, 10.2%). A preferred place discussion was documented for 453 patients (50.8%). Discussions were more likely in women (p=0.003), those referred to specialist palliative care (p<0.001), and where cause of death was haematological cancer (p<0.001); and less likely in those living in deprived areas (p=0.005). Patients with a discussion were significantly (p<0.05) less likely to die in hospital. Last recorded preferences were: home (40.6%), hospice (18.1%), hospital (17.7%) and care home (14.1%); two-thirds died in their final preferred place. Multiple discussions occurred for 58.3% of the 453, with preferences varying by proximity to death and participants in the discussion.
Conclusion: Challenges remain in ensuring that patients are supported to have meaningful end-of-life discussions, with healthcare services that are able to respond to changing decisions over time.
Traditional Chinese art practices such as brush painting and calligraphy are thought to promote self-development through holistically engaging both physical and mental health. This pilot study investigated the beneficial effects of a community-based self-help group incorporating Chinese art practices as a culturally adapted bereavement intervention. Twenty-six Chinese parents aged over 49 years and who had lost their only child participated in a 20-session Chinese brush painting group over a 6-month period. Ten bereaved parents from the same community who did not participate in the art course but received living support were recruited as a control group. Compared with the control group, the art practice group exhibited a pre-post intervention effect in terms of promoting positive affect and preventing deterioration of prolonged grief symptoms, particularly through the improvement of accessory grief symptoms (e.g., "emotional numbness due to the loss", and "feeling that life is unfulfilling, empty or meaningless after the loss"). No effect was found on negative affect. These findings indicate that a culturally adapted community-based art group may be an effective means of improving grief-related health.
In a commentary in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) on a ruling of the Texas Supreme Court in Miller v. HCA, George Annas, the NEJM legal analyst, observed, “One bioethical issue is as intractable today as 30 years ago when the topic was first publicly discussed: the extent of parental authority to refuse life-sustaining medical treatment for an extremely premature infant”. The case involved the resuscitation of a 23-week 615 g infant over parental objections. It took years to resolve the case in the legal system. Nearly two decades later, we might inquire whether neonatologists and other critical care practitioners have greater comfort in dealing with the issue of parental objection?
PURPOSE: To determine how demographic, socioeconomic, health and psychosocial factors predict preferences to accept life prolonging treatments (LPT) at the end of life.
METHODS: This is a retrospective cohort study of a nationally representative sample of community-dwelling older Americans (N=1,648). Acceptance of LPT was defined as wanting to receive all life prolonging treatments in the hypothetical event of severe disability or severe chronic pain at the end of life (EOL). Participants with a DPOA, living will or who discussed EOL with family were determined to have expressed their EOL preferences. The primary analysis used survey-weighted logistic regression to measure the association between older adult characteristics and acceptance of LPT. Secondarily, the associations between LPT preferences and health outcomes were measured using regression models.
RESULTS: Approximately 31% of older adults would accept LPT. Non-white race/ethnicity (OR=0.54, CI (0.41,0.70), White vs. non-White), self-realization (OR=1.34, CI (1.01,1.79)), attendance of religious services (OR=1.44, CI (1.07,1.94)), and expression of preferences (OR=0.54, CI(0.40,0.72)) were associated with acceptance of LPT. LPT preferences were not independently associated with mortality or disability.
CONCLUSIONS: Approximately 1/3 of older Americans would accept LPT in the setting of severe disability or severe chronic pain at the end of life. Adults who discussed their EOL preferences were more likely to reject LPT. Conversely, minorities were more likely to accept LPT. Sociodemographics, physical capacity and health status were poor predictors of acceptance of LPT. A better understanding of the complexities of LPT preferences is important to ensuring patient-centered care.