Awareness and use of practice guidelines on medical end-of-life decisions in Dutch hospitals
Objective: To describe awareness, use and supportiveness for physicians of three practice guidelines on medical end-of-life decisions, and to identify factors associated with increased awareness of these guidelines. Methods: Questionnaires were sent to 793 physicians from 12 hospitals in 2005 (response 52%). Results: Most physicians were aware of the existence of the practice guidelines for euthanasia (75%) and do-not-resuscitate decisions (63%), and 35% were aware of the existence of the guidelines for palliative sedation. Physicians who had read the guidelines and had been in a situation in which they had to consider a euthanasia request, 88% had used the guidelines for euthanasia; corresponding figures are 92% for do-not-resuscitate and 100% for palliative sedation. When used, almost all physicians felt the guideline had been supportive. More positive attitudes towards guidelines and involvement in guideline development were associated with increased awareness of the presence of guidelines. Conclusion: It appears that practice guidelines on medical end-of-life decisions are useful for physicians: when they are aware of the presence of such guidelines in their institution, they gain support when using them. Practice implications: Health care institutions should be encouraged to disseminate guidelines among caregivers, and also involve them in the development of the guidelines.