Objectives: Age of patients by itself is no longer a contra-indication for most medical interventions. The increase of possible interventions for elderly patients has contributed to a sharp age-specific increase of health care costs. Our study aimed to increase the insight in medical decision-making about life-prolonging interventions for patients from non-elderly and elderly age groups. Design: Case-control study. Setting: Clinical practices in three settings: oncology, nursing home and cardiology. Subjects: Eighty-one physicians, representing a response of 60%. Methods: Face-to-face interviews using a structured questionnaire addressing decision-making about the application of taxoid treatment for breast cancer patients, the application of bypass surgery for patients with angina pectoris under or over 70 years of age, and referral to specialist treatment because of a suspected malignancy of nursing home patients under or over 75 years of age. Results: The chance of having been treated was in all settings lower for patients with a relatively poor quality of life and for patients who had no (known) preference to be treated. No differences were found for chance of having been treated between non-elderly and elderly patients with similar patient characteristics. The only exception to this is the patient preference concerning treatment: elderly patients were more likely to have been treated against their will than non-elderly patients were. Conclusions: A relatively high frequency of non-treatment decisions for elderly patients may be predominantly explained by the fact that patient characteristics that determine non-treatment decision-making are more prevalent in elderly age groups, and not by the effect of age per se.

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doi.org/10.1016/j.healthpol.2005.02.001, hdl.handle.net/1765/68828
Health Policy
Department of Intensive Care

Vrakking, A.M, van der Heide, A, van Delden, J.J.M, Looman, C.W.N, Visser, M.H, & van der Maas, P.J. (2005). Medical decision-making for seriously ill non-elderly and elderly patients. Health Policy, 75(1), 40–48. doi:10.1016/j.healthpol.2005.02.001