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The perspectives of hospital doctors about end-of-life care in people with mental illness: an observational pilot study.

Internal Medicine Journal 2023 November 28
BACKGROUND: Negative attitudes towards people living with mental illness (PLWMI), defined here as mentalism, are a major contribution to health care inequity, which may extend into end-of-life care. There is a clear need for investigation of the attitudes of doctors towards PLWMI at the end of life as doctors may lead processes of care that contribute to this inequity.

AIMS: The aim of this pilot study is to examine the perspectives of hospital-based doctors regarding end-of-life care and medical decision-making in PLWMI.

METHODS: A survey was created to explore whether mentalism is present in the perspectives of hospital doctors regarding end-of-life care for PLWMI. The survey included demographic characteristics of participants and questions comprising statements and vignettes that required agree/disagree responses. Descriptive statistics were used to summarise responses, and chi-square tests examined associations with demographic variables.

RESULTS: The survey was commenced by 48 hospital-based doctors and completed by 45. Descriptive statistics indicated that mentalism is present in the attitudes of hospital doctors regarding end-of-life care of PWLMI, with 47 of 48 participants (98%) endorsing at least one mentalist response. One significant association found that psychiatrists and psychiatry trainees were less likely to endorse a stereotype response in one vignette.

CONCLUSIONS: This preliminary study addresses a gap within the literature on the potential contribution of mentalist attitudes in doctors to the poorer end-of-life care outcomes for PLWMI. The findings highlight the need for further study of this topic and suggest a role for targeted medical education in the pursuit of health care equality for PLWMI.

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