Doctors are among the providers of end-of-life care. But what happens when doctors are the recipients of such care? Do they tend to have more aggressive care or less aggressive care?
A recent study looked into this by reviewing the types of end-of-life care nearly 670,000 elderly individuals who died between 2004 and 2005 received. Nearly 2,400 of these individuals were doctors.
The study compared the end-of-life care of the individuals who were doctors with the end-of-life care of members of the general population. The study found that the individuals who were doctors were:
- Less likely to die in a hospital.
- Less likely to be admitted to intensive care units during the closing months of their life.
- Less likely to receive surgery in the last half-year of their life.
This indicates doctors trend towards receiving less aggressive end-of-life care. This may reflect how doctors tend to view aggressive care when it comes to their own end-of-life care. This is because one of the things that can be a big driver of the end-of-life care a person receives is their own preferences and views.
Obviously, when a person is still in control of their own medical decisions when the time for end-of-life care comes around, their views and preferences will contribute greatly to the decisions they make. However, not everyone still has the capacity to make their own medical decisions when it becomes time for end-of-life care decisions to be made.
How big of a role a person's own preferences and views will play in their end-of-life care when their medical decisions are made by others due to incapacity can depend in big part on how much planning they did prior to losing capacity.
There is various planning a person here in Michigan can do within their estate plan to make it clear what sort of end-of-life care they want and to influence what will happen with end-of-life care decisions if they end up losing medical decision-making capacity. This includes forming a living will and having a health care proxy document. Without such planning, a loss of medical-decision-making capacity could end up resulting in a person getting end-of-life care that differs from their preferences. Thus, end-of-life care is among the many things it can be important to think about and talk with an estate planning attorney about when developing an estate plan.