Hong Kong Med J 2003;9:186-91 | Number 3, June 2003
Hong Kong Chinese teachers’ attitudes towards life-sustaining treatment in the dying patients
JCY Lee, PP Chen, JKS Yeo, HY So
Department of Anaesthesiology, Intensive Care and Operating Services, Alice Ho Miu Ling Nethersole Hospital, 11 Chuen On Road, Tai Po, Hong Kong
OBJECTIVE. To evaluate the attitudes of Hong Kong Chinese teachers towards life-sustaining treatment in the dying patients.
DESIGN. Prospective structured questionnaire survey.
SETTING. Hong Kong Institute of Education.
SUBJECTS AND METHODS. All teaching staff at the Hong Kong Institute of Education were sent the survey questionnaire. The questionnaire gathered demographic data, information on experience of ‘life and death’ decision-making, and views on life-sustaining treatment decisions. Respondents were also requested to respond to statements on life-sustaining treatment using a 5-point Likert Scale (1 representing strong disagreement and 5 representing strong agreement).
RESULTS. A total of 436 questionnaires were sent to teaching staff at the Hong Kong Institute of Education. The response rate was 27.8%. More than half (65.8%) of the respondents were aged between 30 and 49 years. There was an equal proportion of men and women among respondents. The respondents agreed with statements supporting end-of-life decisions (mean aggregate score, 3.13; standard deviation, 1.24; P<0.0001), and disagreed with statements against such decisions (mean aggregate score, 2.81; standard deviation, 1.22; P<0.0001). If the patient is competent, half of the respondents agreed that the patient alone should make the decision, while 27.2% believed that it should be a joint decision made by the patient, the family, and the doctor. Conversely, if the patient is incompetent, 52.6% agreed that it should be a joint decision made by the family and the doctor. There was strong support for advanced directives, whereby decisions in relation to life-sustaining treatment were legally recorded in advance (mean score, 3.62; P=0.0001).
CONCLUSION. The teachers in this survey appear to support the practice of withdrawing and withholding life-sustaining treatment in the dying patients when medical treatment is considered futile. Although patient autonomy in decision-making was supported by the greatest number of respondents, joint decision-making by the patient, family members, and doctors was also favoured by a substantial group. There was strong support for the use of advanced directives with respect to life-sustaining treatment.
Key words: Euthanasia, passive; Life support care; Questionnaires; Withholding treatment
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