The medical industry has improved, as has our capability to prolong the life of patients. This may appear to be a good thing, but it also complicates end-of life decisions for patients and their family members. In the PBS Frontline documentary “Facing Death,” the concept of the “broken survivors of intensive care” is discussed, highlighting the impact of these medical advancements on end-of-life care.
The “broken survivors of intensive care” refer to patients who survive critical illness but are left with severe disabilities or reduced quality of life. This documentary highlights that patients with severe illnesses often need extended hospitalizations and special care. The financial and emotional costs for both patients and families are high. The long-term care they receive often forces them to make difficult decisions about life-sustaining treatment and end-oflife care.
The advances in medicine have made it more difficult for doctors to predict the outcome of patients. Because of the existence of treatments that prolong life, doctors may feel unsure about when the time is right to end treatment. There is still the possibility for a positive result. The uncertainty may lead to prolonged treatment or a delay of end-of life decisions. This can cause additional emotional and physical trauma for patients and families.
In addition to raising ethical concerns about patient quality of life, the use of treatments that prolong life also does so. The quality of life for patients kept alive artificially can be negatively affected by the pain and suffering they experience. In such cases, stopping treatment may be the most humane thing to do, as it allows for a peaceful death.
In order to deal with these problems, health care providers begin integrating palliative services into their treatment plans. Palliative health focuses on relieving the pain and anxiety of serious illness, and improving the lives of both the patient and the family. This type of care encourages communication and openness between patients, healthcare providers, and family members, which allows them to make informed choices about their end-of life.
While medical advances have extended life expectancy, they also complicate end-of-life decision-making for patients and families. The concept of the “broken survivors of intensive care” highlights the physical, emotional, and financial burdens that can result from these advancements. Palliative medicine can be integrated into the treatment plan to help healthcare providers better understand and address patients’ and families’ needs. This allows for improved quality of care and informed decisions at end of life.
Frontline. (2010). Face Death PBS. Retrieved from https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/frontline/film/facing-death/
Quill, T. E. (2016). Palliative Care. New England Journal of Medicine, 375(8), 745-757. doi: 10.1056/nejmra1600547