Thu, Nov 26, 2015 - Page 5 News List

Palliative care reforms show strong support

Staff writer, with CNA

Motor Neuron Disease Association chairman Liu Yen-chu, front, speaks at a conference on Tuesday held by the Consumers’ Foundation in Taipei to urge the government to pass a law protecting patient autonomy.

Photo: CNA

A survey conducted by the Taipei-based Consumers’ Foundation released on Tuesday has found that 95 percent of respondents support signing a document indicating their wish for palliative care if they suffer serious incurable illness, while 97 percent support legal immunity for physicians if they provide palliative care upon patient request.

It was part of a campaign by the foundation to push for a draft patient self-determination act, which aims to provide improved life quality for terminally ill patients and others who suffer from incurable illness, to help people live as comfortably as possible without unnecessary medical intervention.

Palliative care focuses on providing patients with relief from symptoms such as pain and physical and mental stress. The goal is to improve quality of life for both the patient and the patient’s family.

Although physicians are allowed to perform palliative care at the request of a patient, they face pressure from the patient’s families, who can sue the doctor over differences of opinion in palliative care, accusing the doctor of not doing enough to save a patient, the foundation said.

The draft act includes a clause that provides legal protection for physicians who provide palliative care and ensures their immunity from legal liability, the foundation added.

The survey found that 97 percent of the respondents support legal immunity for physicians who provide palliative care, while 53 percent oppose the right of physicians to decline to provide palliative care, it said.

The survey showed that 95 percent of respondents support the need for patients to sign a document indicating their wish for palliative care if diagnosed with serious and incurable illness, and 99 percent said they support expanding the scope of patients eligible for palliative care, which is also covered in the draft bill, the foundation said.

The existing Hospice Palliative Care Act (安寧緩和醫療條例) ensures the right of terminally ill patients to palliative care, but the draft bill aims to expand on that.

The draft bill, pending legislative ratification, stipulates that palliative care would be applicable to patients with a terminal illness, who are in a prolonged coma or those diagnosed with severe dementia, the foundation said.

The draft act would require approval from at least two doctors and a “do not resuscitate” agreement from the patient to be eligible for palliative care, the foundation said.

Patients would have to sign a document agreeing to a medical treatment plan and would need to assign a delegate to ensure their wishes are implemented should they become unconscious, the foundation said.

About 97 percent of respondents support the idea of using relatives as medical delegates, the survey showed.

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