Doctors treat terminally ill too long

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Two thirds of Dutch doctors say they provide treatment to gravely ill patients for longer than they should. Extending the lives of the terminally ill is not always the best thing for the patient.

This is one of the findings of a survey conducted by the doctors' organisation KNMG and the Dutch medical journal Medisch Contact. According to many doctors, they treat patients too long because they are accustomed to providing treatment options and are loath to accept that the patient will soon die. The desire to continue treating patients who have no chance of surviving is reinforced by the patients' loved ones who often desperately want the person to live as long as possible.

62 percent of the doctors surveyed said that providing additional treatment to patients who are approaching the end is often not the best thing for the patient.

According to KNMG chair Arie Kruseman, it would be better for physicians to enter into a conversation with the patient about the impending death. Many doctors find this unnerving, however, because it confronts them with their own fear of death, says Professor of Medical Decision-making Job Kievit.


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