81 per cent don't want life-prolonging treatments

81 per cent don't want life-prolonging treatments

JAPAN -More than 80 per cent of people surveyed by The Yomiuri Shimbun said they would not want to receive life-prolonging treatments in the terminal phase of an illness.

The door-to-door survey was taken Sept. 28 and 29, with 3,000 eligible voters contacted nationwide. Of them, 1,600 people, or 53 per cent, responded with valid answers.

Asked whether they would like to receive life-sustaining treatment until the very end, 81 per cent said they would not, while 12 per cent said they would. Seven per cent gave no answer.

Results of the survey show that many people want to face the final stage of their life in a natural way, part of a spreading trend of people making preparations for death while they are still fairly healthy.

Regarding life-extension treatments at the terminal stage of an illness, 35 per cent responded that doctors, patients and family members currently discuss such matters sufficiently, but 50 per cent said they do not think that is the case.

Thirty-one per cent said they have discussed with family members the kind of end-of-life care they wish to receive, while 68 per cent said they have not had such discussions.

Asked whether they would like to make "living wills" or "advance directives," documents setting down treatment preferences in case one is unable to make such judgments at the time of a terminal illness, 44 per cent said "yes," while 43 per cent said "no." Only 1 per cent said they had in fact already prepared such documents.

Those who want to receive treatment at home once there is no prospect for recovery from a life-threatening illness such as terminal cancer accounted for 44 per cent, while 50 per cent did not have such a wish.

On the question of whether they thought it would be difficult to receive terminal care at home if they wanted it, 79 per cent said they thought so, while 17 per cent did not think so.

Among reasons for the presumed difficulty, "heavy family burden of nursing care, etc." was chosen by 81 per cent, the largest figure, followed by "too much money needed" and "cannot respond to sudden changes in condition," both chosen by 37 per cent. Multiple answers were allowed.

To the question whether they would like to be informed if they fell into a situation with no prospect for recovery, 83 per cent said they would like to be informed, while 14 per cent said they would not.

"The fact that 81 per cent of people don't want life-prolonging treatment aligns with the feelings of people actually working on the front lines of medical care. About a decade ago, we applied artificial respirators to terminal cancer patients, thinking, 'We have to save the life of every person,'" said Kunio Nitta, head of the Japan Network of Home Care Supporting Clinics.

"However, attitudes of both medical personnel and ordinary people have changed. At present about 80 per cent of people die in hospitals. Many people seem to think it's natural to 'face the last moment in a hospital.' However, if home-based medical treatment becomes more widespread, the situation will probably change."

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