Doctors appear willing to use intensive treatment to lessen otherwise untreatable pain or other severe symptoms in dying patients even if the treatment, at least in theory, risks hastening the dying process, according to two University of Iowa and Yale University studies on end-of-life care.
Known as "terminal sedation," the practice involves the use of sedating medications to control a patients symptoms even if it results in decreased or complete loss of consciousness. In contrast to physician-assisted suicide, terminal sedation may risk, but does not intend, hastening or causing death. A majority of physicians in the studies drew a clear line between terminal sedation and assisted suicide. In addition, physicians attitudes were related to two notable factors: their experience in caring for terminally ill patients and their frequency of attending religious services.
One study, which focused on internal medicine physicians, appeared in the October issue of the Journal of Medical Ethics. The second study, which focused on internal medicine residents (doctors in training), was published in the September/October issue of the American Journal of Hospice and Palliative Medicine.
Becky Soglin | EurekAlert!
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