Dying Patients Helped by Docs' End-of-Life Talks

But only a third of terminally ill receive them, study says
By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 16, 2008 5:51 AM CDT
Dying Patients Helped by Docs' End-of-Life Talks
Cancer patient Eileen Mulligan, 68, left, and her husband Bob, share a laugh after he helped her out of a chair in the backyard of their Washington home on Thursday, June 12, 2008.    (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf)

While only a third of terminally-ill cancer patients received end-of-life talks from their doctors, those who did fared better, a study has found. Doctors who hedge may think they’re protecting their patients, but patients who got the talk were no more likely to get depressed, avoided living their final days in hospitals, and didn’t spend on expensive, futile care, the AP reports.

What’s more, families who knew the end was nigh were better off. The study “says we have a lot of homework to do,” says a cancer specialist. A California bill would require health care workers to speak openly to terminally-ill patients about their conditions if asked."Most patients know in their heart" says one doc, "but people have an amazing capacity to deny or just keep fighting. For a majority it's a relief to know and just be able to talk about it," (More health care stories.)

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