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Sometimes rescuing is not an option – doctors should focus on providing comfort to dying elderly

Posted August 23, 2018

What has a beginning always has an end. It is the case with life itself – we‘re all going to die, and it is as terrible as it sounds. In fact, there are many people dying right now at this moment. A lot of them are in hospitals still getting treatments. A new research led by University of New South Wales found that dying elderly people in hospitals are getting treatment that is too aggressive.

When death is the only possible outcome, doctors should focus on comfort rather than treatment, which can cause unnecessary suffering. Image credit: Linda Bartlett via Wikimedia

Doctors are always trying to make people be better. They are fixing our bodies for as long as it is possible and new scientific advancements are making us live longer and longer. However, scientists say that at some point it is better to admit that the person is dying, he is not going to get better and treatments are not going to work as intended. It is especially important in elderly people, who, as scientists say, are sometimes getting a treatment that is too aggressive and just makes their last days uncomfortable.

Scientists reviewed the medical records of 733 admitted patients – a third of them were older than 80, but the median age was 68. Around 40 % of these elderly patients were subjected to aggressive techniques, such as intubation, intensive monitoring, intravenous medications, transplants, and painful resuscitation attempts, despite their history suggesting a more gentle approach. Scientists say that some indications about inevitable death should be taken into consideration, realising that the patient is not going to survive and costly, potentially painful treatments are not necessary and may cause suffering. Of course, the best solution would be for patients to discuss their preferences with their families, so that no decisions would have to be made in such critical moments.

Half of the people who died in this study actually died within two days of the medical emergency call. It doesn’t mean, however, that they didn’t get treatment. Scientists are trying to stress that in some cases comforting is a better approach than trying to rescue the patient, while prolonging his death and suffering. Magnolia Cardona, lead author of the study, said: “Our findings strongly indicate that admission to the ICU and invasive procedures for elderly people dying of natural causes need reconsideration. When death is inevitable, other more appropriate pathways of care can be offered such as symptom control, pain relief and psychosocial support”.

Death is inevitable and is somewhat always there when you’re old and you’re sick. We just have to make sure our elderly pass away with no pain and psychologically comfortable.


Source: UNSW

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