Few things have as constant a presence as death. Always looming just out of sight until the very end, death comes regardless of any of your choices. Of course, some of those choices can definitely postpone its arrival or call it upon you sooner, but ultimately you’ll go if it’s your time to go.
And understandably, regardless of whether you have faith in a different plain of existence or not, death can be pretty scary. And even though most of us don’t end up getting it, end of life care is a very helpful tool for your peace of mind just before you bite the big one.
Of course, those most responsible for providing end of life care are those that know how soon that end will come – mostly doctors dealing with terminal patients. But no matter how important the process is for terminally ill patients, a new study shows that end of life talks intimidate most doctors.
This intimidation can lead to any number of results, from not knowing how to approach the situation to saying the wrong thing, and even to avoiding it altogether. But it’s definitely not anything intentional, as the study shows that three-quarters of the interviewed physicians believe that the responsibility lies with them.
However, about half of them frequently feel unsure of what to say. But still, many don’t have the talk altogether. About two-thirds of the 736 interviewed physicians that avoided end of life talks did so because of time constraints, while sixty percent did so because they did not feel like the time was right.
But this is a perfectly reasonable excuse, as timing can truly be troubling when approaching these matters. Having the conversation too early can simply not be clear or meaningful enough, while having it too late can be seen by the patient as the doctor giving up on them.
Still, it turns out that there is a very simple explanation as to why the doctors feel so unsure about how to approach end of life talks – they didn’t really have training. Only 29 percent of the interviewed doctors have had any sort of training on the matter, and the same percentage has a formal way of assessing the patients’ final wishes.
As expected, those who received the training are the ones that are most likely to have that sort of talks with their patients. But there are ways to go around the limitations. The talks could be spread out across the entire treatment period, with the doctors only asking the questions relevant to the next immediate stage, or someone who really knows the patient could tell the doctor what the patient would want.
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