Racial disparities found in how often dying wishes are respected

In yet another of the reminder that there are huge ethnic variations present in our healthcare system, researchers from the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute have concluded that dying white cancer patients are more likely than black patients to have their end-of-life requests honored.

Researchers examined the cases of 234 white patients and 68 black patients with advanced cancer, who were interviewed at the start of the study and monitored until they passed away. While professionals respected both groups' treatment wishes to some degree--in many cases, for example, giving blacks with more aggressive treatments as per their request--white patients were still three times more likely to receive aggressive care than black patients with the same desires.

Another major difference found was in end-stage care. While none of the white patients studied who completed a DNR were put into intensive care in their last week of life, DNR orders seemed to have little effect on whether black patients got intensive care in their final week.

Researchers say that the disparities in the final week of care, may occur because of disruptions in continuity of care common with black patients, as well as cultural differences that seemed to hold back patient-doctor discussions.

To learn more about this study:
- read this press release from the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute

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