A recent Washington Post article examines the state of patients in an intensive care unit in a Norfolk hospital. Post reporter Peter Whoriskey describes the scene of patients with feeding tubes, breathing machines and wrist restraints (to keep them from unhooking the equipment).
A quote from a doctor tending to the patients in this ICU addresses what the reporter witnesses. Dr. Paul Marik says, “I think if someone from Mars came and saw some of these people, they would say, what have they done to deserve this punishment? People might say we are prolonging life, but we end up prolonging death.”
The Post piece mentions opinions of other doctors about some ICU patients: “A 2013 survey conducted in one academic medical center…found that critical care clinicians believed that 11 percent of their patients received care that was futile; another 9 percent received care that was probably futile, it said.”
In the article, Whoriskey suggests a remedy for this aggressive hospital treatment… hospice care. But why don’t doctors refer more of their patients to hospice organizations? Whoriskey writes: “Doctors are reluctant to disappoint a patient with the grim truth, and knowingly or not, keep false hopes alive. Families meanwhile sometimes overestimate the power of modern medicine.”
Another part of Whoriskey’s item provides a nursing perspective: “Surveys of intensive care nurses at 14 ICUs in Virginia, published in 2007 in the journal Critical Care Medicine, found that the leading cause of moral distress [among nurses] arises from the pressure to continue aggressive treatment in cases where the nurses do not think such treatment is warranted.”
The Washington Post article reminds us of the importance of Advance Directives for all patients. These determinations can and should be made before an illness or condition reaches a critical stage.
Also, the importance of strong involvement by family members in dealing with a patient’s medical team cannot be overstated. Ask questions and offer input. And when decisions must be made, consider which path of treatment will be best for the patient.
To read Peter Whoriskey’s article in the Washington Post, click HERE.
For information about hospice care in metro St. Louis, please call Hope Hospice at 314-984-9800.