September 30, 2011

End-of-life Discussion does not Affect Survival Rates

(Ivanhoe Newswire) — Planning ahead is not bad for your health! A new study shows discussing and documenting patients' preferences for care at the end of life does not cause them any harm.

The study found patients who talk with their physicians about end-of-life care and have an advance directive in their medical record have similar survival rates as patients who do not have these discussions and documents.
The study included 356 patients from different hospitals who had low or medium risks of dying within one year. Patients were followed from 2003 to 2009.

"Our findings are reassuring. They support health care providers, who can initiate these discussions, and policy makers, who seek to reimburse these time consuming discussions. Most importantly, our findings are reassuring for patients and families who desire these discussions with their health care providers,” Stacy M. Fischer, M.D. of the University of Colorado School of Medicine was quoted saying.

"The term 'death panels' has sparked considerable controversy recently. It has undermined the efforts of clinicians who provide end-of-life care by scaring patients into thinking that their lives may be cut short for their families' or society's best interest. We hope our study provides data to help inform the national debate about advance directives for key stakeholders; health care providers, policy makers, and patients and families," Fischer was quoted saying.

Each individual has unique needs for information and support. Some patients want to know what to expect and some patients don´t even want to hear what is wrong with them, so each individual still has a choice of what path to choose.

Source: Journal of Hospital Medicine, September 2011.