(1/540) Racial differences in patients' perceptions of debilitated health states.

OBJECTIVE: To determine health utility scores for specific debilitated health states and to identify whether race or other demographic differences predict significant variation in these utility scores. DESIGN: Utility analysis. SETTING: A community hospital general internal medicine clinic, a private internal medicine practice, and a private pulmonary medicine practice. PARTICIPANTS: Sixty-four consecutive patients aged 50 to 75 years awaiting appointments. In order to participate, patients at the pulmonary clinic had to meet prespecified criteria of breathing impairment. MEASUREMENTS: Individuals' strength of preference concerning specific states of limited physical function as measured by the standard gamble technique. MAIN RESULTS: Mean utility scores used to quantitate limitations in physical function were extremely low. Using a scale for which 0 represented death and 1.0 represented normal health, limitation in activities of daily living was rated 0. 19 (95% confidence interval [CI] 0.13, 0.25), tolerance of only bed-to-chair ambulation 0.17 (95% CI 0.11, 0.23), and permanent nursing home placement 0.16 (95% CI 0.10, 0.22). Bivariate analysis identified female gender and African-American race as predictors of higher utility scores ( p +info)

(2/540) Should doctors practise resuscitation skills on newly deceased patients? A survey of public opinion.

Trainee doctors must acquire skills in resuscitation, but opportunities for learning on real patients are limited. One option is to practise these skills in newly deceased patients. We sought opinions from 400 multiethnic guests at an open-access dinner dance for members of a local community. The questionnaire could elicit the responses strongly agree, agree, unsure, disagree or strongly disagree. 332 (83%) guests responded. For non-invasive techniques, 32% of responders supported practice without consent, 74% with consent. Support diminished with increasing invasiveness of procedure. 91% of the sample were uncomfortable about the procedures, the commonest reason being 'respect for the body' (264/302). 86% of responders felt that practice should last for no more than 5 minutes. The most popular solutions were for people to carry a personal card giving consent (89%) and establishment of a central register of individuals consenting to be practised upon after death (79%).  (+info)

(3/540) A staff dialogue on caring for a cancer patient who commits suicide: psychosocial issues faced by patients, their families, and caregivers.

Shortly before his death in 1995, Kenneth B. Schwartz, a cancer patient at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), founded The Kenneth B. Schwartz Center at MGH. The Schwartz Center is a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting and advancing compassionate health care delivery which provides hope to the patient, support to caregivers, and encourages the healing process. The Center sponsors the Schwartz Center Rounds, a monthly multidisciplinary forum during which caregivers discuss a specific cancer patient, reflect on the important psychosocial issues faced by patients, their families, and their caregivers, and gain insight and support from their fellow staff members. The case presented was of a 31-year-old man who developed adenocarcinoma of the lung with painful bone metastases. His tumor was unresponsive to treatment and he subsequently committed suicide by shooting himself. The verbatim and subsequent discussion raised a number of issues. Staff were devastated by the violent way that he ended his life. They questioned whether more could have been done to prevent this outcome, yet acknowledged that it mirrored the way he had lived, and were able to discuss the values by which we live and die. Some, but not all, felt that the patient had the right to choose how and when to end his life.  (+info)

(4/540) The ambiguity about death in Japan: an ethical implication for organ procurement.

In the latter half of the twentieth century, developed countries of the world have made tremendous strides in organ donation and transplantation. However, in this area of medicine, Japan has been slow to follow. Japanese ethics, deeply rooted in religion and tradition, have affected their outlook on life and death. Because the Japanese have only recently started to acknowledge the concept of brain death, transplantation of major organs has been hindered in that country. Currently, there is a dual definition of death in Japan, intended to satisfy both sides of the issue. This interesting paradox, which still stands to be fully resolved, illustrates the contentious conflict between medical ethics and medical progress in Japan.  (+info)

(5/540) Stability of attitudes regarding physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia among oncology patients, physicians, and the general public.

PURPOSE: Attitudes regarding the ethics of physician-assisted suicide (PAS) and euthanasia have been examined in many cross-sectional studies. Stability of these attitudes has not been studied, and this is important in informing the dialog on PAS in this country. We evaluated the stability of attitudes regarding euthanasia and PAS among three cohorts. METHODS: Subjects included 593 respondents: 111 oncology patients, 324 oncologists, and 158 members of the general public. We conducted initial and follow-up interviews separated by 6 to 12 months by telephone, regarding acceptance of PAS and euthanasia in four different clinical vignettes. RESULTS: The proportion of respondents with stable responses to vignettes ranged from 69.2% to 94.8%. In comparison to patients and the general public, physicians had less stable responses concerning the PAS pain vignette (69.1% v 80.8%; P =.001) and more stable responses for all euthanasia vignettes (P <.001) except for pain. Over time, physicians were significantly more likely to change toward opposing PAS and euthanasia in all vignettes (P <.05). Characteristics previously associated with attitudes regarding PAS and euthanasia, such as Roman Catholic religion, were not predictive of stability. CONCLUSION: Up to one third of participants changed their attitudes regarding the ethical acceptability of PAS and euthanasia in their follow-up interview. This lack of consistency mandates careful interpretation of referendums and requests for physician-assisted suicide. Furthermore, in this study, we found that physicians are becoming increasingly opposed to PAS and euthanasia. The growing disparity between physicians and patients regarding the role of these practices is large enough to suggest possible conflicts in the delivery of end-of-life care.  (+info)

(6/540) Autonomy, rationality and the wish to die.

Although suicide has traditionally carried a negative sanction in Western societies, this is now being challenged, and while there remains substantial public concern surrounding youth and elder suicide, there is a paradoxical push to relax the prohibition under certain circumstances. Central to the arguments behind this are the principles of respect for autonomy and the importance of rationality. It is argued here that the concepts of rationality and autonomy, while valuable, are not strong enough to substantiate a categorical "right to suicide" and that the concepts of "understandability" and "respect" are more useful and able to provide the foundation for responding to a person expressing a wish to die. Roman suicide, sometimes held as an example of "rational suicide", illustrates the effects of culture, tradition and values on the attitudes to, and the practice of, suicide.  (+info)

(7/540) Re-examining death: against a higher brain criterion.

While there is increasing pressure on scarce health care resources, advances in medical science have blurred the boundary between life and death. Individuals can survive for decades without consciousness and individuals whose whole brains are dead can be supported for extended periods. One suggested response is to redefine death, justifying a higher brain criterion for death. This argument fails because it conflates two distinct notions about the demise of human beings--the one, biological and the other, ontological. Death is a biological phenomenon. This view entails the rejection of a higher brain criterion of death. Moreover, I claim that the justification of the whole brain (or brain stem) criterion of death is also cast into doubt by these advances in medical science. I proceed to argue that there is no need to redefine death in order to identify which treatments ought to be provided for the permanently and irreversibly unconscious. There are already clear treatment guidelines.  (+info)

(8/540) Physicians' experiences with the Oregon Death with Dignity Act.

BACKGROUND: Physician-assisted suicide was legalized in Oregon in October 1997. There are data on patients who have received prescriptions for lethal medications and died after taking the medications. There is little information, however, on physicians' experiences with requests for assistance with suicide. METHODS: Between February and August 1999, we mailed a questionnaire to physicians who were eligible to prescribe lethal medications under the Oregon Death with Dignity Act. RESULTS: Of 4053 eligible physicians, 2649 (65 percent) returned the survey. Of the respondents, 144 (5 percent) had received a total of 221 requests for prescriptions for lethal medications since October 1997. We received information on the outcome in 165 patients (complete information for 143 patients and partial for on an additional 22). The mean age of the patients was 68 years; 76 percent had an estimated life expectancy of less than six months. Thirty-five percent requested a prescription from another physician. Twenty-nine patients (18 percent) received prescriptions, and 17 (10 percent) died from administering the prescribed medication. Twenty percent of the patients had symptoms of depression; none of these patients received a prescription for a lethal medication. In the case of 68 patients, including 11 who received prescriptions and 8 who died by taking the prescribed medication, the physician implemented at least one substantive palliative intervention, such as control of pain or other symptoms, referral to a hospice program, a consultation, or a trial of antidepressant medication. Forty-six percent of the patients for whom substantive interventions were made changed their minds about assisted suicide, as compared with 15 percent of those for whom no substantive interventions were made (P<0.001). CONCLUSIONS: Our data indicate that in Oregon, physicians grant about 1 in 6 requests for a prescription for a lethal medication and that 1 in 10 requests actually result in suicide. Substantive palliative interventions lead some--but not all--patients to change their minds about assisted suicide.  (+info)