End of Life Preferences

At the end of life, there are few easy decisions; especially as our ever-expanding capacity to extend life becomes, well, even more ever-expanding. Our ability to extend life is not without consequences. We must consider, among other things, the quality of life, the inherent value of life, the reality of death and, frankly, when enough is enough.

In a study published a couple of weeks ago in the European Heart Journal, a group of physicians set out to determine the “End of Life Preferences of Elderly Patients with Chronic Heart Failure.” The conclusions were not as they expected. Of the 555 patients who were asked if they would be willing to accept a shorter life span in return for living without symptoms 74% were not willing to trade survival time for improved Quality of Life.

If you were given the choice between a shorter life without symptoms and a longer life with them, what would you choose?

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chris audinoJoseph Gibes Recent comment authors
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Joseph Gibes
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Joseph Gibes

This just points to the danger of trying to determine “Quality of Life” for others. Studies have repeatedly shown when doctors are asked to estimate what a patient would say his or her quality of life is, they tend to estimate it lower than what the patient actually says. If quality-of-life calculations are used at all in making end-of-life decisions, they need to be based on what the patient says his or her quality of life is, not what some doctor or ethicist guesses that it is.

chris audino
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chris audino

Joe, you are exactly right!