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Ban the Phrase "Do Everything": It's Dangerous Nonsense

File:FEMA - 14268 - Photograph by Marty Bahamonde taken on 01-03-2004.jpg
Let's do something together.  Let's ban the phrase "do everything."

Judy Citko gave me a heads up about an article in the pediatric literature titled, "The Darkening Veil of 'Do Everything.'"  (PediPal, where are you?  An opportunity waiting to happen!  www.PediPal.org is available...)

I'm sure each of us has heard the phrase, "Do everything." As in a clinician saying, "Do you want us to do everything?" Or a surrogate decision maker saying "I want you to do everything for him!"

In the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, Chris Feudtner and Wynne Morrison from Children's Hospital in Philadelphia authored a nice thought piece about the dangers of  "do everything."  Among the arguments:

  • We can't do everything.  "One simply cannot simultaneously cradle a grievously ill infant in one's arms and at the same time insert vascular cannulas for extracorporeal membrane oxygenation; nor can one hold a loved one's hand while they are dying at the same moment that the code team yells "clear" and attempts to defibrillate the patient's heart."
  • The term is not specific.  What the heck does "do everything" mean, exactly?  Does it include high quality high intensity palliative care?  Families don't know the whole range of medical options.
  • This term cuts off meaningful discussion between clinicians and family.  "We already know what they want."
  • This term is a cry of distress. W should attempt to puzzle out the specifics of what type of care are most appropriate to the patient's goals and circumstances. But when we do so, responding to emotion is often forgotten, considered outside of our role, or not prioritized.  Make sure to respond to the affect behind the statement as much as the content.
  • As the pace of the technological imperative accelerates - extending life by seconds or minutes with medicines, devices, and machines - the "veil of 'do everything' grows darker."

The authors conclude by arguing that the phrase "do everything" is dangerous nonsense, and call for a moratorium on using the phrase.  I prefer a "ban" to a "moratorium," as a moratorium is temporary, and  I don't see any reason for a second life for this particular phrase.

This is an actionable item.  Let's all, in each of our healthcare settings, use reasoned arguments to promote a ban on the use of the phrase "do everything."

How would we accomplish this ban?

  • Education.  Many of us teach trainees - students, residents, nurses, fellows, or faculty.  Make it a point to encourage your trainees to stop using the phrase, and ask them to stop others from using it.
  • Speak up when you hear the phrase.  Even in the heat of the clinical encounter, you can gently say something like, "I know Dr. Smith just used the term "do everything," but I worry that that term may not be specific enough.  Let's talk about how we might help your mother."  The article provides some terrific suggestions for language.  Give feedback to trainees who you hear use the phrase, and encourage them to spread the ban.
  • Make the message go viral! Spread the word via twitter, facebook, and your favorite social media sites.  Mine is currently Strava (OK, maybe not Strava).

by: Alex Smith

Comments

PaganChaplain said…
And remember: Chaplains - graduate-level educated and clinically trained through Clinical Pastoral Education - can serve those who would say "Do everything," by helping them identify the values beneath that plea, thus helping them open to other plans of care.
This is an actionable item. Let's all, in each of our healthcare settings, use reasoned arguments to promote a ban on the use of the phrase "do everything." Male Impotence thanks for opinion.
Alexander said…
You are quite right that we can stop use of "Do everything" by education, condemn its use by raising resistive voice at every stage where you listen this and above all spreading your message. Here is my contribution and surely I will post this on my wall.
Jamie Salcedo said…
The phrase breeds desperation in everyone, not just in the patient and love ones but the medical staff as well. You are right this needs to be addressed during healthcare training of any level. Thanks for the article.
Annie Cross said…
I think it's going to leave a false impression if the "do everything" phrase is still in effect. Patients will expect a lot more from healthcare providers when in fact providers can only do so much, and that might leave a bad taste in the mouth.

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