Australian Health Review Australian Health Review Society
Journal of the Australian Healthcare & Hospitals Association
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Completion of Limitation of Medical Treatment forms by junior doctors for patients with dementia: clinical, medicolegal and education perspectives

Jaclyn Yoong A B , Aleece MacPhail C , Gael Trytel D , Prashanti Yalini Rajendram D , Margaret Winbolt E and Joseph E. Ibrahim C D F
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Monash Health, Department of Supportive and Palliative Care, 246 Clayton Road, Clayton, Vic. 3168, Australia. Email: jackieyoong@hotmail.com

B Department of Palliative Care, Northern Health, 185 Cooper Street, Epping, Vic., 3076 Australia.

C Queen Elizabeth Centre, Ballarat Health Services, 102 Ascot Street Sth, Ballarat, Vic. 3350, Australia. Email: aleece.macphail@gmail.com

D Victorian Institute for Forensic Medicine, Department of Forensic Medicine, Monash University, 65 Kavanagh Street, Southbank, Vic. 3006, Australia. Email: gtrytell@gmail.com; pyraj1@student.monash.edu

E Australian Centre for Evidence Based Aged Care, Health Sciences Building 2, La Trobe University, Vic. 3086, Australia. Email: Margaret.Winbolt@latrobe.edu.au

F Corresponding author. Email: joseph.ibrahim@monash.edu

Australian Health Review - https://doi.org/10.1071/AH16116
Submitted: 25 May 2016  Accepted: 23 August 2016   Published online: 14 October 2016

Abstract

Objective Limitation of Medical Treatment (LMT) forms are an essential element of end-of-life care. Decision making around LMT is complex and often involves patients with dementia. Despite the complexity, junior doctors frequently play a central role in completing LMT forms. The present study sought perspectives from a range of stakeholders (hospital clinicians, medical education personnel, legal and advocacy staff) about junior doctors’ roles in completing LMT forms in general and for patients with dementia.

Methods Qualitative data were gathered in semi-structured interviews (SSI) and theoretical concepts were explored in roundtable discussion (RD). Participants were recruited through purposive and convenience sampling drawing on healthcare and legal personnel employed in the public hospital and aged care systems, selected from major metropolitan hospitals, healthcare and legal professional bodies and advocacy organisations in Victoria, Australia. The contents of the SSIs and RD were subject to thematic analysis using a framework approach. Data were indexed according to the topics established in the study aim; categories were systematically scrutinised, from which key themes were distilled.

Results Stakeholders reported that completing LMT forms was difficult for junior doctors because of a lack of medical and legal knowledge, as well as clinical inexperience and inadequate training. Healthcare organisations (HCOs) either lacked policies about the role of junior doctors or had practices that were discordant with policy. In this process, there were substantial gaps pertaining to patients with dementia. Recommendations made by the study participants included the provision of supervised clinical exposure and additional training for junior doctors, strengthening HCO policies and explicit consideration of the needs of patients with dementia.

Conclusions LMT forms should be designed for clarity and consistency across HCOs. Enhancing patient care requires appropriate and sensitive completion of LMT. Relevant HCO policy and clinical practice changes are discussed herein, and recommendations are made for junior doctors in this arena, specifically in the context of patients with dementia.

What is known about the topic? Junior doctors continue to play a central role in LMT orders, a highly complex decision-making task that they are poorly prepared to complete. LMT decision making in Australia’s aging population and for people with dementia is especially challenging.

What does this paper add? A broad range of stakeholders, including hospital clinicians, medical education personnel and legal and advocacy staff, identified ongoing substantial gaps in education and training of junior doctors (despite what is already known in the literature). Furthermore, LMT decision making for patients with dementia is not explicitly considered in policy of practice.

What are the implications for practitioners? Current policy and practice are not at the desired level to deliver appropriate end-of-life care with regard to LMT orders, especially for patients with dementia. Greater involvement of executives and senior clinicians is required to improve both practice at the bed side and the training and support of junior doctors, as well as creating more robust policy.


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