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Many of us think as dying as the worst thing that could happen as the result of sickness – but a new poll of severely ill patients found a different response.

From July 2015 to March 2016, researchers spoke to 180 patients admitted to a Pennsylvania Hospital with terminally ill or severe conditions. While the patients may not necessarily have been suffering from similar ailments, they all found that there were worse ‘living limitations’ than death. Patients agreed that certain living conditions would make living as bad or worse than death – with the highest proportion stating that incontinence or living with a breathing machine would be worse.

None of the patients surveyed suffered from these problems themselves, but Medicine applicants should consider what this study means for patient care. The authors of the study state that work in intensive care units in hospitals “commonly ignore [patient] preferences, assuming implicitly or explicitly that death is an outcome to be avoided no matter what the alternatives are.” Those applying for Medicine should consider the balance medical practitioners need to make between obeying a patient’s wishes and preserving a life.

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