In Europe, most deaths occur in health care institutions.
While advances in medicine offer us more effective treatment and increased life expectancy, more of us die in hospital than anywhere else, following increasingly lengthy periods of treatment. In end-of-life situations, in view of the possibilities for improving the patient’s state of health and quality of life, an issue is whether treatment should be withheld or withdrawn. Another issue to be addressed is whether to start treatment whose main purpose is to alleviate pain but which may also have the effect of shortening the patient’s life.
What criteria should be applied when deciding to begin, limit or withdraw medical treatment in end-of-life situations? Who are the actors participating in such decision? Doctors, care teams, patients, relatives - what should be their respective role in the process? What should happen when patients are not able to express their will? And how can patient’s previously expressed wishes be taken into account?
Health professionals, patients’ associations, sociologists and lawyers – representatives of all these relevant sectors will be attend this symposium to launch a Europe-wide debate on these issues, favouring an approach based on practical examples. The aim of the symposium will be to clarify concepts in order to dispel potential misunderstandings, and to identify points of convergence and, where they exist, divergences. The conclusions of the symposium could then be used as a basis for the elaboration of guidelines on the decision-making process concerning medical treatment in end-of-life situations.