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Most Physicians Would Halt Chemo at Patient's Request

But fewer physicians would comply with patient's wish to speed death with drugs

MONDAY, April 24 (HealthDay News) -- The majority of physicians would halt chemotherapy if a terminal cancer patient insisted, but fewer would comply with a patient's request to speed death with drugs, according to a survey of physicians in six European countries and Australia published in the April 24 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.

Bregje D. Onwuteaka-Philipsen, Ph.D., of VU University Medical Centre in Amsterdam, and colleagues randomly surveyed physicians in Australia, Belgium, Denmark, Italy, the Netherlands, Sweden and Switzerland, about their willingness to make end-of-life decisions, and any of four end-of-life decisions they might choose.

Overall, 75 to 99 percent of physicians surveyed said they would halt chemotherapy or more aggressively treat symptoms if a terminal cancer patient asked them to. More than half the physicians indicated a willingness to deeply sedate terminal cancer patients until they died.

But fewer physicians said they would comply with patient wishes to speed death using drugs. A patient's ability to make rational decisions was most likely to influence a physician end-of-life decision, followed by unmanageable pain and imminent death.

"Cultural and legal factors seem to influence the frequencies of different end-of-life decisions and the strength of their determinants across countries, but they do not change the essence of decision making," the authors conclude.

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