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Doctors’ knowledge of the law on withholding and withdrawing life-sustaining medical treatment

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In reply: General medicine was one of eight specialties included at the pilot stage of our research. However, the response rate of general physicians was only 6% — the lowest of all specialties. We considered this rate to reflect a relative lack of interest in the topic, perhaps because end-of-life decision making is only part of the more diverse practice of general physicians. Our method for determining which specialties to survey also included a literature review, and asking doctors who pretested the survey instrument which specialties were most involved in end-of-life decision making. After extensive discussion within the research team, general physicians were removed from the main study.

Despite this, we agree with Buckmaster and Forbes that surveying general physicians would be valuable, given their confirmation that end-of-life care is part of this specialty’s practice, and in order to understand the extent to which general physicians know the law. If it is possible to achieve a sufficient response rate, we would welcome the opportunity to conduct the study with this specialty.