Medical Faculty, Institute of Health and Society, Centre for Medical Ethics, University of Oslo, P.O. Box 1130, Blindern, 0318, Oslo, Norway, email@example.com.
We have studied ethical considerations of care among health professionals when treating and setting priorities for elderly patients in Norway. The views of medical doctors and nurses were analysed using qualitative methods. We conducted 21 in depth interviews and 3 focus group interviews in hospitals and general practices. Both doctors and nurses said they treated elderly patients different from younger patients, and often they were given lower priorities. Too little or too much treatment, in the sense of too many interventions and too much drugs, combined with too little care and comfort, was admitted as a relatively frequent yet unwanted consequence of the way clinical priorities were set for elderly patients. This was explained in terms of elderly patients not tolerating the same treatment as younger patients, and questions were raised about the quality of life of many elderly patients after treatment. These explanations were frequently referred to as medically sound decision making. Other explanations had little to do with medically sound decisions. These often included deep frustration with executive guidelines and budget constraints.