Study examines end-of-life care

A new study finds significant differences in the way that top medical centers treat the sickest patients. Researchers at Dartmouth compared the care delivered over the last six months of life at highly regarded facilities across the country. Patients at NYU Medical Center were in the hospital the longest, on average 32.1 days. Those at UCLA Medical Center were not far behind, averaging 19.2 days. In contrast, patients at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center were in the hospital on average only two days and those at Mass. General 2.8 days.

Expect a revival of the old debate over how much care is too much after this one. Feelings run strong on the subject, with some doctors arguing that long stays for patients who are unlikely to recover are unethical and others taking the opposite view. The study is the most recent in a series by the Dartmouth team examining the link between the economics and quality of end-of-life care.

- see this article from The Wall Street Journal (sub. req.)