Episode 70 End of Life Care in Emergency Medicine
Most of us in North America live in cultures that almost never talk about death and dying. And medical progress has led the way to a shift in the culture of dying, in which death has been medicalized. While most people wish to die at home, every decade has seen an increase in the proportion of deaths that occur in hospital. Death is often seen as a failure to keep people alive rather than a natural dignified end to life. This is at odds with what a lot of people actually want at the end of their lives: 70% of hospitalized Canadian elderly say they prefer comfort measures as apposed to life-prolonging treatment, yet as many as ⅔ of these patients are admitted to ICUs.
Quality End of Life Care in Emergency Medicine is not widely taught. Most of us are not well prepared for death in our EDs – and we should be. There’s no second chance when it comes to a bad death like there is if you screw up a central line placement, so you need the skills to do it right the first time.
To recognize when comfort measures and compassion are what will be best for our patients, is just as important as knowing when to intervene and treat aggressively in a resuscitation. Emergency physicians should be able to recognize not only the symptoms and patterns that are common in the last hours to days of life, but also understand the various trajectories over months or years toward death, if they’re going to provide the high quality end of life care that patients deserve.
So, with the help of Dr. Howard Ovens, a veteran emergency physician with over 25 years of experience who speaks at national conferences on End of Life Care in Emergency Medicine, Dr. Paul Miller, an emergency physician who also runs a palliative care unit at McMaster University and Dr. Shona MacLachlan who led the palliative care stream at the CAEP conference in Edmonton this past June, we'll help you learn the skills you need to assess dying patients appropriately, communicate with their families effectively, manage end of life symptoms with confidence and much more...
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