Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is the third leading cause of death in the United States. It is highly prevalent, and as it progresses, causes patients to become too disabled to work, thus creating substantial economic and social burdens. In 2010, U.S. healthcare data estimated the total economic burden from COPD at $50 billion, of which $30 billion was related to direct medical expenditures and the remaining $20 billion related to morbidity, loss of work, and premature death. There are also unacknowledged and unquantified costs including the economic value of care provided by family members and their potential lost wages as they stay home to care for the patient.
As the disease progresses, some patients will choose mechanical ventilation as a palliative treatment option. although the patient with advanced disease is eligible for hospice care, many hospices cannot afford to accept the patient with mechanical ventilation into their programs because this high-tech intervention drives the cost of care beyond the standard insurance reimbursement. Thus, patients and families may be deprived of the benefits of hospice care.
Hospice is an all-encompassing service available for patients with a prognosis under 6 months. Under the Medicare hospice benefit, patients eligible for hospice are greater than 65 years or receiving Medicare disability payments. At the start of care, two physicians must sign a statement certifying that the patient’s life expectancy is six months or less based on their best estimate of the patient’s medical prognosis. While hospice benefit was originally designed for Medicare recipients, most insurance providers cover hospice care for patients not eligible for Medicare. But hospice eligibility depends on more than only a physician determining a prognosis of six months or less until death.
The principles for determining when patients with end-stage cardiac disease require end-of-life care, are actually similar to those for determining prognosis of patients with advanced pulmonary disease.
Disabling Dyspnea or Chest Pain
Dyspnea or chest pain with rest or minimal exertion and can therefore classified as New York Heart Association class IV (NYHA class IV)
Ejection fraction less or equal 20%, if available
Persistent symptoms despite optimal medical management with vasodilators and dialectics, or
Inability to tolerate optimal medical management due to hypotension and/or renal failure
The word euthanasia is combination of the Greek eu= good, and thanatos = death. Literally and etymologically it therefore means “good death”. Historically and scholarly, euthanasia in the strict- and in the Dutch context the only proper- sense refers to the situation in which a doctor kills a person who is suffering “unbearably” and “hopelessly” at the latter’s explicit request (usually by administering a lethal injection)… and euthanasia is in the Netherlands reserved for killing on request. In concrete terms, euthanasia invovles injecting the patient with two types of eubstances: barbiturates to induce coma, followed by neuromuscular blockers which cause respiratory muscle paralysis. The consequent anoxia and cardiac arrest bring on immediate death.