How to deal with a late-stage illness is a sensitive topics for most patients and families. Deciding whether to pursue aggressive treatment or stop treatment in favor of pain management and palliative care is a very personal decision that is fraught with emotion.
According to new data from the Pew Research Center, a growing number of Americans are choosing to be far more aggressive in treating end-of-life illnesses. The percentage of Americans who say a physician should always do everything possible to save a life has more than doubled between 1990 and 2013, from 15% to 31%. One third of adults, 35%, said they would tell their doctors to do everything possible to keep them alive - even if they had a disease with no hope of improvement and were in a great deal of pain.
Because of the internet, patients now have access to more information than ever and they're more willing to ask doctors for specific treatments and courses of care.
But does that lead to unnecessary treatments that prolong suffering? Should doctors perform aggressive end-of-life treatments at a patient's request even if the doctor feels the patient won't recover? How do doctors decide which patients should get aggressive end-of-life care and which should not?
Cary Funk, senior researcher with the Pew Research Center's Religion & Public Life Project and lead researcher for the “Views on End-of-Life Medical Treatments” study
Dr. Paul Schneider, MD, president of the Southern California Bioethics Committee Consortium