Resolving conflicts over end-of-life care: Mayo experts offer tips

November 27, 2012

ROCHESTER, Minn. -- It's one of the toughest questions patients and their loved ones can discuss with physicians: When is further medical treatment futile? The conversation can become even more difficult if patients or their families disagree with health care providers' recommendations on end-of-life care. Early, clear communication between patients and their care teams, choosing objective surrogates to represent patients and involving third parties such as ethics committees can help avoid or resolve conflicts, Mayo Clinic experts Christopher Burkle, M.D., J.D., and Jeffre Benson, M.D., write in the November issue of Mayo Clinic Proceedings.

"Health care professionals in the United States have struggled with the importance of maintaining patient autonomy while attempting to practice under the guidance of treatments based on beneficial care," Dr. Burkle, the study's lead author, says.

Tips from Drs. Burkle and Benson to effectively discuss end-of-life care include: "End-of-life care will continue to be an ongoing discussion within the medical community; however, it is important that medical care providers and patients/medical surrogates continue to dialogue," Dr. Burkle says. "Only then can experts continue to offer insight into the effectiveness of systems used in countries that have moved to a more patient-centrist approach to end-of-life care treatment choices."
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To interview Dr. Burkle or Dr. Benson about end-of-life care, contact Alaine Westra at westra.alaine@mayo.edu or 507-284-5005.

About Mayo Clinic

Mayo Clinic is a nonprofit worldwide leader in medical care, research and education for people from all walks of life. For more information, visit http://www.mayoclinic.org/about and www.mayoclinic.org/news.

About Mayo Clinic Proceedings

The flagship journal of Mayo Clinic and one of the premier peer-reviewed clinical journals in general medicine, Mayo Clinic Proceedings is among the most widely read and highly cited scientific publications for physicians, with a circulation of approximately 124,000. While the Journal is sponsored by Mayo Clinic, it welcomes submissions from authors worldwide, publishing articles that focus on clinical medicine and support the professional and educational needs of its readers. www.mayoclinicproceedings.org

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