Free Service Helps Physicians Provide End-of-Life Care Patients Want
(Washington, DC – June 15, 2015) Responding to reports that millions of older Americans receive unwanted medical treatment, Compassion & Choices today launched a new, free “Doc2Doc” consultation service to ensure patients receive the end-of-life care they want.
According to a 2014 poll conducted by Purple Insights, nearly one out of four Americans (24%) aged 50 or older — the equivalent of about 25 million people — say that either they or a family member have experienced excessive or unwanted medical treatment.
Better and more frequent doctor-patient communication could help prevent this excessive and unwanted medical treatment, according to a 2014 report by the Institute of Medicine, Dying in America: Improving Quality and Honoring Individual Preferences Near the End of Life.
To improve doctor-patient communication, Doc2Doc is specifically tailored to offer practicing physicians a free, confidential and readily available telephone consultation from a seasoned medical director with decades of experience in end-of-life medical care.
“As physicians, I think we all secretly wish we could solve all of our patients’ healthcare crises by ourselves,” said Dr. David Grube, a national medical director for Compassion & Choices and a former chairperson of the Oregon Board of Medical Examiners. “But I believe we all recognize that it is our duty to consider any tools that minimize our patients’ suffering, especially at the end of life when curative treatments are no longer a viable option.”
Doc2Doc is based on the premise that a physician’s informed communication with each patient about the full range of end-of-life options should center on the healthcare goals of the patient, not the doctor. This communication is necessary to weigh the benefits and burdens of various treatment options to align them with the patient’s values and priorities. Ideally, these conversations often are uncomfortable, but are critically important, and should begin soon after a diagnosis of terminal illness and continue throughout the progression of it.
“Doc2Doc may not be the answer for every physician or situation,” said Dr. Grube. “But I think it is a resource worth exploring for physicians who care for dying patients and want guidance about how they can best support their patients’ decisions.”
The Doc2Doc consultation may include answers about these end-of-life care options:
- Hospice, palliative care and effective pain and symptom management.
- How to follow current clinical practice guidelines.
- How specific state laws affect end-of-life care.
- How to communicate with patients, pharmacists and family members.
- What to expect in a patient-controlled death.
- How to handle patients’ inquiries or requests concerning withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment.
- How to handle a badly suffering, terminally ill patient’s request for assistance in achieving a painless, peaceful death.
- Voluntarily stopping eating and drinking (VSED), including appropriate supportive care, to help a badly suffering patient to achieve a peaceful death. VSED is authorized nationwide.
- Medical aid in dying: a medical practice that offers terminally ill, mentally competent adults the option to request a prescription for medication that they can ingest to shorten their dying process. Medical aid in dying currently is authorized in five states, Oregon, Washington, Montana, Vermont and New Mexico, but legislators in the District of Columbia and at least 24 other states have introduced medical aid-in-dying bills.
Physicians who want to utilize the Doc2Doc service can call the Compassion & Choices toll-free number: 800.247.7421, email: [email protected], or visit the Compassion & Choices website at: www.compassionandchoices.org/what-we-do/doctors-to-doctors.
In addition, Compassion & Choices, in collaboration with 18 leading aging and healthcare organizations, is conducting “The Campaign to End Unwanted Medical Treatment” to encourage healthcare providers and institutions to honor patients’ wishes.