Difficulties Doctors Experience during Life-Sustaining Treatment Discussion after Enactment of the Life-Sustaining Treatment Decisions Act: A Cross-Sectional Study

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Abstract

Purpose This study aimed to investigate difficulties doctors experience during life-sustaining treatment (LST) discussion with seriously ill patients and their families after enactment of the LST Decisions Act in February 2018. Materials and Methods A cross-sectional survey was conducted in a tertiary hospital in the Republic of Korea in August 2019. Six hundred eighty-six doctors who care for seriously ill patients were given a structured questionnaire, and difficulties during the discussion were examined. Results One hundred thirty-two doctors completed the questionnaire. Eighty-five percent answered they treat cancer patients. Most (86.4%) experienced considerable difficulties during LST discussions (mean score, 7.4±1.6/10). The two most common difficulties were communication with patients and family and determining when to discuss LST. Two-thirds of doctors found direct discussions with the patient difficult and said they would initiate LST discussions only with family. LST discussions were actually initiated later than considered appropriate. When medically assessing whether the patient is imminently dying, 56% of doctors experienced disagreements with other doctors, which could affect their decisions. Conclusion This study found that most doctors experienced serious difficulties regarding communication with patients and family and medical assessment of dying process during LST discussions. To alleviate these difficulties, further institutional support is needed to improve the LST discussion between doctors, patients, and family.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)584-592
Number of pages9
JournalCancer Research and Treatment
Volume53
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 2021

Keywords

  • Decision making
  • Discussion
  • End-of-life care
  • Life-sustaining treatment
  • Terminal cancer

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