BMC medical ethics 2017 11 1518(1) 62 doi 10.1186/s12910-017-0222-9
The relationships between age and the life-supporting treatments use, and between gender and the life-supporting treatments use are still controversial. Using extracorporeal membrane oxygenation as an example of life-supporting treatments, the objectives of this study were: (1) to examine the relationship between age and the extracorporeal membrane oxygenation use; (2) to examine the relationship between age and the extracorporeal membrane oxygenation use; and (3) to deliberate the ethical and societal implications of age and gender disparities in the initiation of extracorporeal membrane oxygenation.
This is a population-based, retrospective cohort study. Taiwan’s extracorporeal membrane oxygenation cases from 2000 to 2010 were collected. The annual incidence rate of extracorporeal membrane oxygenation use adjusting for both age and gender distribution for each year from 2000 to 2010 was derived using the population of 2000 as the reference population. The trend of extracorporeal membrane oxygenation use was examined using time-series linear regression analysis. We conducted joinpoint regression for estimating the trend change of extracorporeal membrane oxygenation use.
The trends of extracorporeal membrane oxygenation use both for different gender groups, and for different age groups have been significantly increasing over time. Men were more likely to be supported by extracorporeal membrane oxygenation than women. Women’s perspectives toward life and death, and women’s perception of well-being may be associated with the phenomenon. In addition, the patients at the age of 65 or older were more likely to be supported by extracorporeal membrane oxygenation than those younger than 65. Family autonomy/family-determination, and the Confucian tradition of filial piety and respecting elders may account for this phenomenon.
This study showed gender and age disparities in the initiation of extracorporeal membrane oxygenation use in Taiwan, which may be accounted for by the cultural and societal values in Taiwan. For a healthcare professional who deals with patients’/family members’ medical decision-making to initiate life-supporting treatments, he/she should be sensitive not only to the legality, but also the societal and ethical issues involved.