Dying Patients Given Needless Treatment, Major Study Finds
More than a third of dying elderly patients receive “invasive and potentially harmful” treatments in their last weeks of life, the biggest review of its kind has found. Analysis of data from 1.2 million patients worldwide found patients being subjected to “excessive” and unnecessary treatments that make no difference to the course of their illness. Researchers said some of the pressure stemmed from families who struggled to accept that nothing more could be done for their loved ones, and expected “heroic” interventions from doctors. The review, led by experts at the University of New South Wales in Australia, involved 10 countries, including England, examining the experiences of bereaved families and doctors. Published in the International Journal for Quality in Health Care, it found around a third of elderly patients with advanced, irreversible conditions — such as cancer — were given treatments that were of no benefit to them.
One third of terminally-ill cancer patients were given chemotherapy in the last six weeks of life, while 10 percent of all patients in irreversible decline were admitted to intensive care units. A third such patients were given antibiotics and heart medicines, while almost as many were put through dialysis, blood transfusions, or other life support. A quarter of patients who had Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) orders in their notes were resuscitated, while up to half of such patients underwent invasive blood tests and scans, the study found.