Majority of Doctors Have Living Wills

how doctors die, stethoscope

credit: Flickr

Only about 8% of people who go into cardiac arrest outside of a medical setting survive.  Think your chances are much better in a hospital?  Even with the latest and greatest medical technology and know-how only 19% survive there.

Physicians know these numbers.  They also know the suffering that comes from supporting life under “extreme measures.”  For those reasons they opt out of extreme measures more often then the general population and instead request palliative care and DNRs.

An advanced directive (ADS) is a health document, sometimes called a living will, which specifies what action should be taken in a person’s health if they are no longer able to make their own decisions.   According to Time Magazine, less than half of severely or terminally ill patients have an advanced directive in their medical records; but 64% of doctors do.  More striking, the physicians who had advanced directives were nearly three and a half times more likely to refuse rescue care (DNRs) compared to physicians who hadn’t signed an ADS.

Here’s the real kicker: studies show that palliative care at the end-of-life not only eases suffering but seems to prolong life better than aggressive medical care.

Studies have shown that patients with a short life expectancy who choose hospice over continued treatment and last-ditch assists like ventilators and feeding tubes live not only better but, surprisingly, longer on average. 

Researchers also found that the family suffered less, with shorter time periods for grieving and less depression after a loved one died with palliative/hospice care.

Currently there isn’t a lot of data about what doctors truly think about how they spend their last few days on earth.  But when the essay “How Doctors Die” by Dr. Ken Murray M.D. was published, it sparked a bit of controversy.  Physicians wanted to know if any research supported the essay and opponents voiced concern that palliative care would be perceived as the predominant go-to, mainstream option over individual patient choice.

What do you think?  Do you think physicians have the right idea?  Or should everyone just decide what’s best for themselves and their families?  If you are an M.D. or D.O. you can continue this conversation in depth inside Sermo.


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