“ ‘Because by that time the patient is too sick to be able to have a voice in their own care, their family members have never had this discussion with the patient because no one guided them,’ said Periyakoil. ‘So as a result, they're sort of making these very high stakes decisions in the dark. They, because they love the patient so much, are caught up in the deep, emotional trauma and it's very hard for them to be able to make decisions.’
If family members can’t speak on behalf of the patient, Periyakoil says aggressive, heroic measures will generally be used to prolong the patient’s life.
‘The system default is to do everything possible, every treatment possible, even though the treatment might be ineffective and the treatment may be something the patient doesn't want,’ said Periyakoil.”