This single-center study found that Do-Not-Resuscitate (DNR) orders and Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLSTs) created at hospital admission often do not reflect the true wishes of patients and their caregivers. When queried by study staff, 44% of patients expressed wishes for life-sustaining treatment that differed from their designated code status; this resulted in revocation of the DNR order in more than one-third of patients with a discrepancy. A prior study argued that inaccurate documentation of patient's wishes for end-of-life care should be considered a medical error.
Heneka N, Bhattarai P, Shaw T, et al. Palliat Med. 2019;33:430-444.
This focus group study of Australian palliative care providers examined risk factors for opioid errors among palliative patients. They identified clinician inexperience, the drug preparation environment, and poor communication as contributory factors for medication errors. The authors conclude that multiple interventions will be needed to enhance opioid safety in palliative care.
The authors present a case in which an unnecessary procedure was incorrectly performed on a patient who had opted to pursue hospice care. They highlight factors contributing to the error including those related to use of the electronic health record.
Hospitalized in the ICU after cardiac arrest and loss of cardiac function for 15 minutes, an older man experienced worsening neurological status. After extensive discussions about goals of care, the family agreed to a DNR order. Over the next week, his condition declined, and the family decided to transition to comfort measures. Orders were written but shortly thereafter, the family spoke with the ICU resident and reversed their decision. The resident canceled the terminal extubation orders without communicating the order change to other team members.
Found unconscious at home, an older woman with advanced dementia and end-stage renal disease was resuscitated in the field and taken to the emergency department, where she was registered with a temporary medical record number. Once her actual medical record was identified, her DNR/DNI status was identified. After recognizing this and having discussions with the family, she was transitioned to comfort care and died a few hours later. Two months later, the clinic called the patient's home with an appointment reminder.
There are challenges to preparing residents for both the clinical and nontechnical demands of independent practice. This commentary discusses resident training and orientation to end-of-life care and consultation. The author advocates for medical education to help residents build skills to communicate with empathy and provide debriefings to address the emotional toll associated with palliative care. A recent WebM&M commentary explores the balance between comfort and harm in palliative care.
Admitted to the hospital for treatment of a hip fracture, an elderly woman with end-stage dementia was placed on the hospice service for comfort care. The physician ordered a morphine drip for better pain control. The nurse placed the normal saline, but not the morphine drip, on a pump. Due to the mistaken setup, the morphine flowed into the patient at uncontrolled rate.
Advance care planning (ACP) has become an increasingly utilized process for exploring and communicating patients' preferences for end-of-life care. This multicenter audit of ACP practices across 12 hospitals in Canada found that even when patients and families have completed ACP, inpatient health care providers are not discussing these preferences during hospitalization nor are they documenting these decisions in the medical record. When there was chart documentation, it did not match the patients' expressed wishes more than two-thirds of the time. The majority of audited cases found that patients were prescribed more aggressive care than they would have preferred. An accompanying editorial argues that these types of "silent misdiagnoses" should be considered medical errors, noting that discussions about code status and ACP are "every bit as important to patient safety as a central line placement or a surgical procedure." A previous AHRQ WebM&M commentary discussed ACP and other tools for expressing end-of-life preferences.
Public reporting of mortality indicators forces hospitals to evaluate each death as a potentially poor outcome. This commentary discusses the tension between delivering high quality palliative care and the often paradoxical increase in mortality.
Following hernia repair surgery, an elderly woman is incidentally found to have a mass in her neck. Expecting the worst, the treating physician recommends palliative care and withdrawal of mechanical ventilation, before biopsy results are in.
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