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Most Physicians Would Refuse Aggressive Treatment They Provide to Dying Patients, Study Concludes

By Ian Richards

Nearly nine out of 10 physicians would refuse the aggressive, often painful, life-prolonging treatment that they provide to dying patients, according to a recent study by the Stanford Palliative Care Education and Training Program.

Numerous major media outlets, including CBS NewsNPR and Time Magazine, are reporting on the study’s conclusions.

Below is a riveting excerpt from the Time Magazine story:

“The greatest success of the American medical system is also its greatest failure. Thanks to amazing advances in biomedicine, doctors can keep you living long after you would have passed away in earlier years. Today a 65-year-old man can expect to live past age 82, and a 65-year-old woman can expect to live even longer. But those extra years can come at a terrible cost. Millions of Americans spend the last few years of their lives in and out of hospitals, racking up huge medical bills. A quarter of the total Medicare budget is spent on the last year of recipients’ lives, with 40% of that money going to their final 30 days. Worse than those billions, though, is the physical and psychological pain that accompanies aggressive end-of-life treatment. Intubations, dialysis, feeding tubes, invasive tests—for far too many Americans, the last phase of life is spent in a hospital intensive care unit, hooked up to machines …

“88.3% of doctors surveyed reported that they would choose to forgo this kind of treatment if they were dying of a terminal illness. Yet even though they know how painful and futile those treatments are for dying patients—and would refuse them if the situations were reversed—doctors still find themselves carrying out those procedures on their own patients.”

You can read the full Time Magazine article by clicking here.

You can read the original study as posted in PLOS ONE journal by clicking here.