An article from the Wall Street Journal last year showed exactly how big a difference there is in how people use advance directives, such as living wills and health care powers of attorney. According to the article about 64% of physicians have created some kind of advance directive, while only about 20% of the general public has done the same.
While the cause of this discrepancy could be due to a number of factors, the daily exposure that doctors have to medical treatments and the knowledge they have about what those treatments mean on a practical level could have a lot to do with it.
Physicians who commonly deal with terminal illnesses and end-of-life care situations know the practical effects of some very common healthcare procedures, such as cardiopulmonary resuscitation, or CPR.
In the case of CPR, one study showed that the way the public views this procedure is vastly different than the reality. In 75% of television shows where CPR is performed the patient not only recovers but about 67% of the time actually ends up going home. The medical reality is that only 8% of patients who receive CPR go on to live for longer than a month, while of that small percentage only 3% are able to live a normal, or mostly normal life.
For physicians, the stark reality of “heroic measures” may be the reason why so many choose to create an advance directive.
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