Unwanted Medical Treatment

Compassion & Choices is working to raise awareness about the benefits and burdens of different treatment options, protect our rights to decline medical treatments, and advance policies so that patients can make fully informed decisions about the care they want – and don’t want.

Graphic showing that three out of four people receive treatments the professional society deems non-beneficial.

Why is Compassion & Choices Focused on Unwanted Medical Treatment?

While data demonstrates that the vast majority of people believe they will get care consistent with their values at life’s end, unfortunately that is not the case: For example:

  • 3 in 4 people near the end of life receive treatments the professional society say are non beneficial treatments.1
  • 3 in 4 people with a documented preference for comfort care get at least one aggressive intervention at life’s end.2
  • 1 in 4 people who enter the ICU with documented DNR orders get CPR.3
  • 1 in 3 cancer patients say they are getting enough information about other options for treatment.4

The fate for people with dementia is even more stark. People with dementia typically don’t recognize that they have a right to proclaim their voice and document their desire to withhold or withdraw medical interventions and treatments should dementia take hold. Many receive cardiac pacing, mechanical ventilation, feeding tubes and other burdensome interventions extending the time living with advanced dementia for years. As a result, many survive long after they would wish, with irreversible loss of every mental and bodily function.

Without clear information about all the treatment options and their outcomes, millions of Americans submit to end-of-life care that inflicts needless pain and suffering.

How Can I Avoid Unwanted Medical Treatment?

People need to be empowered and educated so they can make fully informed healthcare choices and live their remaining time on their own terms. Americans should not have to wait for the medical system to stumble through incremental improvement.  

Check out Advanced Care Planning and Dementia at the End of Life for tips and tools to avoid unwanted and uninformed medical treatment.

CancerCare, 2016

CancerCare, 2016

JAMA Internal Medicine, 2015

CancerCare, 2016

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