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Most Physicians Would Forgo Aggressive Treatment

Physicians recommend aggressive treatments for patients but would opt out themselves

WEDNESDAY, June 4, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Although physicians regularly recommend high-intensity, aggressive, life-prolonging care for their terminally ill patients, the vast majority would choose to forgo such care for themselves at the end of life, according to a study published online May 28 in PLOS ONE.

Vyjeyanthi S. Periyakoil, M.D., of the Stanford University School of Medicine in Palo Alto, Calif., and colleagues asked 1,081 physicians from the Stanford Hospital and Clinics and the Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care System to complete a web-based advanced directives form and a 14-item advance directives attitude survey. These data were compared with data from 790 Arkansas physicians who completed the survey in 1989. The authors sought to evaluate whether physician age, ethnicity, medical subspecialty, or personal resuscitation or organ donation preferences affected their attitude toward the use of advanced directives.

The researchers found that the vast majority (88.3 percent) of physicians who participated in the study said they would choose do-not-resuscitate or "no code" status if they were terminally ill. Attitudes toward advance directives were influenced by physician gender, ethnicity, and sub-specialty.

"Our data show that doctors have a striking personal preference to forgo high-intensity care for themselves at the end-of-life and prefer to die gently and naturally," the authors write. "This study raises questions about why doctors provide care to their patients which is very different from what they choose for themselves and also what seriously ill patients want."

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