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Majority of Doctors would Elect “Do Not Resuscitate”

Update Date: May 29, 2014 04:28 PM EDT

Doctors tend to recommend aggressive treatments for patients who are on the brink of death. Even though these treatments might not cure the illness, they can add a little bit more time for the patient and his/her family. In a new study, researchers interviewed doctors and found that the majority of them would choose to skip aggressive treatment if they were dying.

"A big disparity exists between what Americans say they want at the end of life and the care they actually receive," the researchers wrote according to Philly. "More than 80 percent of patients say that they wish to avoid hospitalizations and high-intensity care at the end of life, but their wishes are often overridden."

The researchers from Stanford University School of Medicine examined the results from two surveys. The first one interviewed 1,100 doctors working in California in 2013 and the other one reached 790 doctors from Arkansas in 1989. The researchers found that regardless of the time difference, the majority of the doctors felt the same way when asked about receiving aggressive treatments.

In the most recent survey, 88 percent of the doctors stated that they would opt for do-not-resuscitate orders if they were dying. Roughly the same percentage of patients reported that they would rather skip aggressive treatments that only end up increasing costs. Despite finding that doctors would not choose these last minute treatments, they still continue to order these life-prolonging treatments for their terminally ill patients.

"Why do we physicians choose to pursue such aggressive treatment for our patients when we wouldn't choose it for ourselves? The reasons likely are multifaceted and complex," Dr. V.J. Periyakoil, a clinical associate professor of medicine at Stanford, director of the Stanford Palliative Care Education and Training Program, and associate director of palliative care services at the Palo Alto VA Center in California.

The study, "Do Unto Others: Doctors' Personal End-of-Life Resuscitation Preferences and Their Attitudes toward Advance Directives," was published in PLOS ONE.

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