In a new piece published in The Courier-Post, Compassion & Choices’ Chief Program Officer Kim Callinan and hospice physician Brad Stuart discuss a recent survey on end-of-life-care from the John A. Hartford Foundation, California Health Care Foundation and Cambia Foundation.
The survey found that doctors have a difficult time time talking with their patients about end-of-life issues, and that a lack of training in talking with patients and their families about death is one barrier to better care.
Callinan and Stuart argue that empowering patients to ask the right questions could change this dynamic. They suggest patients ask the following questions about their diagnoses:
- My condition: Is my disease curable? Will it shorten my life? By how much? What’s likely to happen as it progresses?
- Benefits of treatment: How will this treatment help my condition? Will I be cured or will the disease come back? What are the odds either way? Will treatment return me to normal function?
- Burdens of treatment: Does this treatment have side effects? What will my quality of life be like during treatment? What activities will I have to give up? How much time will I spend in the hospital or going to doctors’ appointments
- Other treatment options: What are my other treatment options? What happens if we focus on slowing the disease without going for a cure? Or focus on comfort rather than fighting the disease? Or do nothing? What about hospice
- Doctor’s personal view: A 2014 study by physicians affiliated with the Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford Hospital and Clinics, and Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care System showed that almost 90 percent of doctors would choose to forgo aggressive treatment at the end of their own lives. Most would want to die gently with few interventions. So patients should also ask their doctors: “What would you do if you had my diagnosis and prognosis?”