End-of-Life Care

Overview

Supporting a patient’s care decisions at the end of life is part of the family physician’s responsibility in his or her partnership with the patient. The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) believes that each individual has the right to decide what medical treatment he or she will receive. This right includes decisions about what life-sustaining treatment should be provided at the end of his or her life.

The AAFP endorses end-of-life care that embodies the following principles:

  1. Respect the dignity of both patient and caregivers.
  2. Be sensitive to and respectful of the patient’s and family’s wishes.
  3. Use the most appropriate measures that are consistent with patient and surrogate choices.
  4. Ensure that alleviation of pain and management of other physical symptoms are a high priority.
  5. Recognize, assess, and address the associated psychological, social, and spiritual/religious issues, and cultural taboos, realizing that different cultures may require significantly different approaches.
  6. Ensure appropriate continuity of care by the patient’s family physician and consulting physician, when applicable.
  7. Advocate for the patient’s right to choose any therapy that may reasonably be expected to improve the patient’s quality of life, including alternative or nontraditional treatments.
  8. Provide access to palliative care and hospice care.
  9. Respect the right to refuse treatment.
  10. Respect the physician’s professional judgment and recommendations, with consideration for both patient and family preferences.
  11. Consider clinical and evidence-based research and education relative to providing care at the end of life.

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