As Professor Ken Murray outlines in his article "How Doctors Die", doctors often administer futile care to patients near the end of life, even though they would not want this for themselves. This is due to a combination of factors, including patient and family expectations, doctor fear of litigation, and the fee-for-service medical system. Doctors are often afraid of being sued if they do not provide aggressive treatment, even if it is not in the patient's best interest. I have seen several cases where patient’s wishes for end-of-life care were documented, but the system intervened, and they were placed on life support against their wishes.
Hospice care, which focuses on providing terminally ill patients with comfort and dignity, is often a better option than aggressive treatment. Doctors can play a role in helping patients and families make informed decisions about end-of-life care. They can do this by discussing the options available and explaining the pros and cons of each. They can also help patients and families to develop a plan for end-of-life care that is consistent with their values and wishes. Remember to reach out to your health provider regarding the next steps on creating your advance care plan. It’s okay to ask them, “what would you do in my situation”, you might be surprised by the response.