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Lancet. 1993 May 8;341(8854):1196-9.

Life-terminating acts without explicit request of patient.

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  • 1Department of Public Health, Erasmus University, Rotterdam, Netherlands.


In the Dutch nationwide study on medical decisions concerning the end of life (MDEL) life-terminating acts without the explicit request of the patient (LAWER) were noted in 0.8% of all deaths. We present here quantitative information and a discussion of the main issues raised by LAWER. In 59% of LAWER the physician had some information about the patient's wish; in 41% discussion on the decision would no longer have been possible. In LAWER patients tend to be younger and more likely to be male and to have cancer than in non-acute deaths generally. The physician (specialist or general practitioner) knew the patient on average 2.4 years and 7.2 years, respectively. Life was shortened by between some hours and a week at most in 86%. In 83% the decision has been discussed with relatives and in 70% with a colleague. In nearly all cases, according to the physician, the patient was suffering unbearably, there was no chance of improvement, and palliative possibilities were exhausted. MDEL probably will increase in number in future but interviews with Dutch physicians suggest a possible fall in LAWER, even though there will always be some situations in which a well-considered LAWER decision may have to be made.

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