Advance directives respected most of the time

Elderly patients' wishes regarding life-sustaining treatments are respected most of the time, according to a new study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society on Saturday.

Researchers looked at 90 nursing facilities in Oregon, Wisconsin, and West Virginia, representing 870 living and deceased elderly patients. They found that when the patient and the physician both signed an advance directive of a Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST) form, which outlines the options and use of breathing or feeding assistance, resuscitation wishes were honored 98 percent of the time, and orders to limit medical interventions were honored 91.1 percent of the time, reports The Wall Street Journal blog.

When the wishes are not respected, "there was a good reason most of the time," according to study author Susan Tolle, director of the Center for Ethics in Health Care at Oregon Health & Science University.

The study comes one month after another study published in the Journal of Hospital Medicine, indicating that discussing end-of-life care with patients doesn't lead to increased mortality. Researchers found that having advance directive discussions didn't increase or decrease a patient's risk of death.

For more information:
- read the Wall Street Journal blog post
- here's the study abstract