3 tips for doctors on having better end-of-life discussions

It's important to discuss the patient's values when talking with relatives about treatment, say researchers

There’s room for improvement in communications between doctors and families over end-of-life decisions when the patient can’t speak for themselves, researchers say.

In one in four meetings with relatives about treatment in intensive care, there is no discussion about what matters to the patient — and what they would have wanted, the study shows.

"Because most critically ill patients are incapacitated and unable to communicate these values, their families and friends typically represent them as surrogate decision-makers," the researchers say.

“Most conferences lacked adequate communication, particularly in terms of deliberating about patients’ values and preferences, and applying them to treatment decisions.”

The researchers analysed transcripts of 244 meetings between families and doctors about patients in ICU who faced a more-than 50% chance of dying in hospital. The average age of the patients