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HEALTH ON THE HILL: PREVENTING UNWANTED MEDICAL TREATMENT

By Ben Shega, Granny Cele Memorial Fellow at Compassion & Choices

As patients become increasingly ill and even reach the end of their lives, they may receive comprehensive medical care that could be considered non-beneficial. For example, one in four people who enter the intensive care unit (ICU) who have documented do-not-resuscitate orders still receive CPR. Overall, one in three people receive non-beneficial treatment. Although physicians have attempted to reduce aggressive end-of-life care, there has been little change. Dying patients are still being hospitalized and forced to undergo ineffective treatments that diminish their quality of life.

Compassion & Choices wants to reverse these horrifying trends. We support measures to combat unwanted medical treatment and empower the patient. Of several bills in Congress that reflect the patient-centered attitude of Compassion & Choices, Care Planning Act of 2015, sponsored by Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) and Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA), could help reduce unwanted medical treatment. Under this bill,  the Department of Health and Human Services would develop quality measures that would align with patients’ goals, values and preferences.

Additionally, the bill would mandate that healthcare providers comply with their patients’ verbal and nonverbal treatment instructions. More than 80% of patients say they wish to avoid hospitalizations and high-intensity care at the end of life, but their wishes are often ignored. The Care Planning Act calls for advance directives to be fully enforced. Additionally, patients would be given the option to create “portable treatment orders” to provide specific instructions regarding their preferences. Medicare-certified healthcare providers would have to follow these orders in any care setting, including a patient’s own home.

The Care Planning Act of 2015 would help keep patients abreast of their illness while safeguarding their choices. If this bill passes, it can decrease unwanted medical treatment.