Decision-making in patients with advanced cancer compared with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis

Journal of Medical Ethics 34 (9):664-668 (2008)
Aim: Patients with advanced cancer need information about end-of-life treatment options in order to make informed decisions. Clinicians vary in the frequency with which they initiate these discussions.Patients and methods: As part of a long-term longitudinal study, patients with an expected 2-year survival of less than 50% who had advanced gastrointestinal or lung cancer or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis were interviewed. Each patient’s medical record was reviewed at enrollment and at 3 months for evidence of the discussion of patient wishes concerning ventilator support, artificial nutrition and hydration , resuscitation and hospice care. A Kaplan–Meier analysis was also performed and 2-year survival calculated.Results: 60 cancer and 32 ALS patients were enrolled. ALS patients were more likely than cancer patients to have evidence of discussion about their wishes for ventilator support , ANH , DNR and hospice care . At 6 months, 91% of ALS patients were alive compared with 62% of cancer patients; at 2 years, 63% of ALS patients were alive compared with 23% of cancer patients .Conclusions: Cancer patients were less likely than ALS patients to have had documented advanced care planning discussions despite worse survival. This may reflect perceptions that ALS has a more predictable course, that advanced cancer has a greater number of treatment options, or differing views about hope. Nevertheless, cancer patients may be less adequately prepared for end-of-life decision-making
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DOI 10.1136/jme.2007.022731
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