Doctors Keep Patients, Families in the Dark About Death

Friday, March 05, 2010 by: David Gutierrez, staff writer
Tags: death, patients, health news

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(NaturalNews) In one quarter of all cases where doctors in the United Kingdom conclude that a patient will never recover, the family of the patient is not informed, according to the National Care of the Dying Audit, conducted by the Marie Curie Palliative Care Institute and the Royal College of Physicians.

"Much improvement is required within busy hospital schedules for communication with and support for relatives," researcher Jonathan Potter said. "If we can get this right, it would make a huge difference to patients and their families."

The British government endorses a system known as the Liverpool Care Pathway, under which doctors may remove invasive and curative medicines from a patient if they believe that patient will never recover. The pathway was recently criticized by a group of medical experts for encouraging doctors to stop looking for signs of improvement.

Researchers examined records from the deaths of nearly 4,000 patients who had died under the Liverpool Care Pathway in 155 hospitals across England. They found that 40 percent of patients were aware that they were dying, 21 percent were not aware, and information was not available for the other 39 percent.

In 24 percent of all cases, the relatives of the patients were not informed that their family member "had entered the dying phase." Twenty-eight percent of families were not told how the hospital planned to care for their dying relative.

According to John Ellershaw of the Marie Curie Institute, it is important that the family of a dying patient be offered spiritual or psychological support if they desire it. Yet the study found that in 70 percent of all cases, the spiritual needs of the dying person's family were not assessed by hospital staff.

Fifty percent of all complaints registered with the National Health Service about acute hospital care between the years of 2004 and 2006 concerned end-of-life care.

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