According to a recent JAMA Internal Medicine report, nearly 20% of intensive
care unit patients are receiving treatment that is futile or probably futile. Among
those who received futile care, 68% died while hospitalized.
Futile treatment may
be defined as interventions that prolong life without achieving an effect that the
patient can appreciate as a benefit.
Why are futile treatments given to patients?
Possible reasons may include lack of agreement from the family, lack of agreement
within the clinical team or the failure of doctors to talk about end-of-life issues.
What can you do to avoid futile treatments for yourself or a loved one?
Speak early and often about issues that concern you, as
well as your values and preferences. Ask for the help of
expert consultants, such as palliative care doctors or an
ethics committee. Discuss which treatment options fit
your goals. Don’t be afraid to ask for extra time to speak
with a physician.
Before a healthcare crisis, put your wishes in writing. Ask
us for a copy of Five Wishes,
to establish advance directives in the event that you are no
longer able to speak for yourself.