Physiotherapists' attitudes towards old and young patients in persistent vegetative state (PVS)

Noit Inbar, Israel Doron, Avi Ohry

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose - The purpose of this paper is to uncover attitudes of physical therapists (PTs) who treat vegetative state (VS) patients, and to raise awareness to ethical and professional dilemmas: Are PTs influenced by ageist perceptions? Do they consider physiotherapy to be effective or futile? Design/methodology/approach - Ethical questions and complex dilemmas are by and large subconscious and rarely explicitly voiced, but can be identified by revealing implicit therapists' personal and professional approach to patients. A quantitative six-point Likert scale questionnaire was developed, which presented two VS cases - young and old, followed by practical-ethical questions concerning key issues including: treatment choices, quality of life, prolongation of life, futile treatment (ITn/IT=101, 68 percent return rate). Findings - The results reveal a complex reality: on the one hand PTs expressed a positive perception of their profession, and consider all treatment components important for VS patients and their families regardless of age; on the other hand, significant preference for treating the younger VS patient was found. Practical implications - There is a need for raising awareness of physiotherapists to the social phenomenon of ageism and its implications on daily professional and ethical conduct. Originality/value - While other studies revealed ageism in various health care settings, this study was original both in its methodology (examining implicit ageism via contrasting vignettes), and its unique context (VS patients) which in theory could be viewed as "ageless" in light of the patients' permanent condition.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)111-124
Number of pages14
JournalQuality in Ageing and Older Adults
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2012


  • Ageism
  • Physiotherapy
  • Practical ethics
  • Quality of life
  • Vegetative state

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gerontology
  • Community and Home Care
  • Care Planning


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