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March 24, 1997

Publications in Subspecialty Journals on End-of-Life Ethics

Author Affiliations

From the University of Arizona Health Sciences Center (Drs Heffner and Brown), and Department of Medicine, St Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center (Drs Heffner and Brown and Ms Barbieri), Phoenix, Ariz.

Arch Intern Med. 1997;157(6):685-690. doi:10.1001/archinte.1997.00440270137013

Background:  Factors that impede patient adoption of advance directives and inhibit physician-patient discussions about end-of-life issues remain incompletely defined. Determination of publication rates of articles on end-of-life ethics in different subspecialty journals may provide insight into physicians' reluctance to promote advance directives for their patients, which appears to vary between subspecialty fields.

Objective:  To determine publication rates of items on end-of-life issues and other ethics topics.

Methods:  We surveyed core journals from 1976 to 1995 in cardiology (n=5), critical care medicine (n=1), nephrology (n=4), oncology (n=7), and pulmonary medicine (n=2).

Results:  Critical care medicine (50.4%; 95% confidence interval [CI], 45.0%-55.8%) and pulmonary medicine (27.6%; 95% CI, 22.7%-32.5%) journals published considerably more articles on end-of-life issues than journals in cardiology (4.1%; 95% CI, 0.8%-7.4%), nephrology (11.0%; 95% CI, 7.9%-14.1%), or oncology (6.9%; 95% CI, 1.5%-12.3%). Oncology (30.7%; 95% CI, 25.3%-36.1%), critical care medicine (29.6%; 95% CI, 24.2%-35.0%), and pulmonary medicine (21.5%; 95% CI, 16.6%-26.4%) journals published more items pertaining to all ethics-related topics compared with cardiology (11.0%; 95% CI, 7.3%-14.7%) or nephrology (7.3%; 95% CI, 4.2%-10.4%) journals. Oncology journal ethics articles most often pertained to informed consent or research issues.

Conclusions:  Different internal medicine subspecialty fields demonstrate markedly different patterns of publishing items on topics pertaining to end-of-life issues.Arch Intern Med. 1997;157:685-690