According to a study of patients, doctors and family members suggests there is widespread confusion over living wills. When someone has a terminal illness, they may have previously expressed their desires over medical procedures in a 'living will'. For example they may not wish to have cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) if they don't have a realistic chance of recovery. But other people, even though they face death, may wish every possible measure to be taken to keep them alive.
Researchers in the US looked at a small group of patients who had made a living will. They found that none of them wanted CPR or the insertion of a tube to make them breathe, if they had a terminal illness. Some did not want these procedures at all. But some of the doctors questioned said they would not do CPR or insert a tube into any patient who had made a living will - whether they wanted it or not. However, two of the physician group said they would do this - even if they knew the patient was bound not to recover.
AdvertisementClearly there is a serious mismatch between what patients want in the case of serious illness and what physicians are prepared to do. Making a living will highlights this dilemma and is something that patients, doctors and relatives need to discuss in more detail.