Failure to engage in discussions on end of life has a potential for malpracticeThis year, the passed health care reform legislation majorly dealt on reimbursements made for such discussions and was mischaracterized widely as a way of establishing the so called ‘death panels’. Most people can’t imagine what justified such a rescission to be made law and most families and patients are eagerly waiting for this info.

Most of them need to have a good understanding of their actual conditions and the range of options available at their disposal. It is also of great value to their health care providers like doctors to know the preferences of a patient. No doctor really wants to make the patient uncomfortable unnecessarily and no doctor would even want to experience the same themselves. There is no legitimate reason why any patient wishing to participate in such kind of decisions shouldn’t be given that option. Actually, it is contrary to the Hippocratic Oath and very unethical not to seek the views of families and their patients on exactly what the need done during the different illness stages. All doctors get ‘informed consent’ first after which they discuss the various alternatives available before conducting some tests and procedures.

Should end of life be different?

In line with the above arguments, the truth is that end of life care mustn’t be different either. Actually, it should be considered a malpractice by the doctor to unnecessarily expose a patient to suffering by failing to engage them in such critical discussions. Chances are high that such a legal and ethical risk could encourage many practitioners to engage in such discussions without any payment. A heart failure physician will tell you that there are many potential management approaches available for patients having severe heart failure and might not respond to the optimal treatment regimens available. Such include experimental drugs, device implantation, transplantation and mechanical assist devices. However, for patients who are continuously uncomfortable and short of breath or can’t look after themselves or are exhausted with the wide range of treatment options availed to them are given an option of involving their families.

The implication of this rescission on medical practice

Most physicians are of the view that such a rescission depicts the dire lack of courage for those people who are responsible. This is an enough reason for them to be really ashamed. As a result, ethical and appropriate decisions have ended up being defeated by the dishonest sound bites such as the death panels mentioned above. As a result, everyone involved including medical personnel, families and patients who will be made to participate in the unnecessary suffering of the patient and the public at large will suffer. As such, it is essential that clear guidelines, rules and regulations are put in place when it comes to issues to do with end of life care.