Terminally Ill Patients Avoid Hospice Talk

Doctors, poorly trained in breaking bad news, also procrastinate
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted May 26, 2009 2:45 PM CDT
Terminally Ill Patients Avoid Hospice Talk
Most doctors aren't trained to discuss hospice options.   (Shutterstock)

Doctors and patients are prone to procrastinate when it comes to tough end-of-life decisions, according to a Harvard study. Researchers found that only about half of the 1,517 terminal lung cancer patients surveyed had discussed hospice with their doctors within four to seven months of their diagnosis. Hospice care focuses on keeping a patient comfortable, rather than curing the illness, the Boston Globe notes.

The number of Americans with serious or life-threatening illness is expected to more than double over the next 25 years as the baby boomers age, and hospice is far cheaper than aggressive treatment. But, researchers say, patients often have “unrealistic expectations.” Doctors, meanwhile, avoid the topic, since they’re paid for procedures completed, and often aren’t trained to discuss bad news and difficult options. (More hospice stories.)

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