Dr. Andy

Reflections on medicine and biology among other things

Sunday, March 27, 2005

When families want to keep patients alive

It used to be that families fought doctors to withdraw care, not anymore
Now, doctors and ethicists say that when hospitals and families clash, conflicts often pit families who want to continue life support and aggressive medical care against doctors who believe it is time to stop
This is more common than you think. There are whole hospitals dedicated to care of patients on ventilators. Of course, some patients have intact cognitive function, but can't breathe due to neuromuscular disorders like ALS or spinal cord injuries, but some are just kept alive because the family doesn't want to let go.

In my limited experience, with some time and discussion the family usually comes to recognize the futility of further care and agrees to withdraw support.

While I agree with the sentiment, I think this statement is a bit over the top:
In Boston, doctors considered it so inhumane to keep alive Barbara Howe, a 79-year-old woman with Lou Gehrig's disease, that the chairman of the ethics committee wrote in June 2003, "this is Massachusetts General Hospital, not Auschwitz."


Post a Comment

<< Home