What Does "Do Everything" Mean?
1) Understand what “doing everything” means to the patient, 2) Propose a philosophy of treatment, 3) Recommend a plan of treatment, 4) Support emotional responses, 5) Negotiate disagreements, and 6) Use a harm-reduction strategy for continued requests for burdensome treatments that are very unlikely to work.
The most essential part of this process is to refrain from interpreting the patient’s request to “do everything” as a blanket consent for any medical therapy available to humankind. Rather, such a request should be considered akin to a clinical sign that requires more investigation. In step 1, the physician develops a “differential diagnosis” regarding the meaning of “everything” which includes potential affective, cognitive, spiritual, and family related factors.
The article suggests appropriate questions that help to delineate the “diagnosis” (ie the meaning of “everything”). In this step, the patient’s values, priorities, and goals are revealed. The patient knows these better than the physician. What they may not know (and what the physician should assess) is whether potential medical therapies will be consistent with values and priorities or if they will stand a chance to help them meet their goals.