A hundred years ago we did not need to worry about this… but when dying in the 21st century, overtreatment is possible, can add to disease burden, can decrease quality of life, and is in fact a concern that we need to address!
Article in NY Times by Tara Parker Pope, “Overtreatment is taking its toll” “When it comes to medical care, many patients and doctors believe more is better. But an epidemic of overtreatment — too many scans, too many blood tests, too many procedures — is costing the nation’s health care system … and taking a human toll in pain, emotional suffering, severe complications and even death.”
In her book “Overtreated: Why Too Much Medicine Is Making Us Sicker and Poorer” Shannon Brownlee points out that more health care does not necessarily make one healthier, that some tests and procedures can actually do harm.
Research indicates that when substitute decision makers do not know a person is dying, they will err on the side of further acute agressive treatments, rather than on comfort care. Education is key to making informed choices.
One simple step to help decrease the burden of overtreatment is simply to provide individuals with adequate information in a way they can understand and comprehend the content, and then to support the patient/family to make informed decisions.
ASSESSMENT, followed by INFORMATION SHARING, then support to help patient and family with DECISION MAKING will help patient and family develop individualized, appropriate CARE PLANS, IMPLEMENTATION OF CARE and then CONFIRMATION or evaluation to see if the needs are being met.
It is possible that even with good information some people will chose many tests and procedures. But at least they will do so with information and while being supported in their decision making.
It is totally inappropriate to investigate, intervene, implement, push, prod, pull or puncture… without providing relevant information including the benefits and burdens.
For ideas on information sharing… stay tuned!