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Welcome to the nexus of ethics, psychology, morality, philosophy and health care

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Is Age a Determinant Variable in Forgoing Treatment Decisions at the End of Life?

Guest post by Sandra Martins Pereira, Roeline Pasman and Bregje Onwuteaka-Philipsen
Journal of Medical Ethics Blog
Originally posted May 14, 2015

Decisions to forgo treatment are embedded in clinical, socio-cultural, philosophical, religious, legal and ethical contexts and beliefs, and they cannot be considered as representing good or poor quality care. Particularly for older people, it is sometimes argued that treatment is aggressive, and that there may be a tendency to continue or start treatments in situations where a shift to a focus on quality of life in light of a limited life expectancy might be preferred. Others argue that an attitude of ageism might prevent older people from receiving treatments and care from which they could benefit, thus resulting in some type of harm and compromising the ethical principles of beneficence and non-maleficence.

When the need to make a decision about treatment concerns an older person at the end of life, physicians need to reflect on the following questions: In this situation, for this person, what is the best course of action? Is this person capable of assessing the situation and making a decision about it adequately herself? What are the preferences of the person? Who needs to be involved in the decision-making process? What will be the consequences of starting or withholding this treatment?

The blog post is here.

The paper is here.