Paramedics' ‘end-of-life’ decision making in palliative emergencies

Background:Paramedics in Germany routinely treat palliative care patients at the end-of-life (EoL). For this, they play a legally significant role in EoL decision making in the outpatient emergency setting. This study was undertaken to determine paramedics’ understanding of their role in withholding or withdrawing resuscitation/EoL-treatment of palliative care patients when an advance directive is present.Methods:Using a self-administered survey, participants/paramedics were asked about (1) ‘their occupational experience’ (less/more than 10 years, (2) ‘emergency responses’ (less/more than 100/month), (3) ‘their experiences in palliative emergencies’ (less/more than 10 palliative emergencies/year), (4) ‘palliative emergency sheets concerning end-of-life decisions’, and (5) ‘their treatment options during resuscitation’. Participants were paramedics from two cities in Germany.Results:Overall, 728 questionnaires were returned (response rate: 81%). Seventy-three percent of respondents were older than 20 years, 98.5% were male. Most paramedics dealt with palliative emergencies and terminally ill patients during their work (71%). Work experience and training in palliative care shows statistically significant differences concerning our dependent variables.Conclusions:Our results underline the necessity for more training in EoL. Paramedics stated that improved guidelines regarding EoL decisions/advance directives and the possibility to withdrawing resuscitation for appropriative cases are necessary. The treatment of terminally ill patients by paramedics may present an ethical problem: if paramedics honour patients' wishes, they will violate juridical regulations. In future, a change concerning current regulations seems to be necessary as well.

Subscribe to get full access to the Journal of Paramedic Practice

Thank you for vising the Journal of Paramedic Practice and reading our archive of expert clinical content. If you would like to read more from the only journal dedicated to those working in emergency care, you can start your subscription today for just £48.

CPD Focus

Reading the Journal of Paramedic Practice counts towards your professional development

Develop your career

We provide professional information dedicated to paramedics covering training, education and jobs

Stay informed

Get the latest clinical information to ensure you are aware of the latest think and best practice in paramedicne

Subscribe now

Already registered? - Sign in here

Keep up to date with Journal of Paramedic Practice!

Sign up to Journal of Paramedic Practice’s regular newsletters and keep up-to-date with the very latest clinical research and CPD we publish each month.