Study: ICU docs discuss end-of-life with blacks less often

New research from the Center for Reducing Health Disparities (CRHD) suggests that ICU physicians discuss prognoses and end-of-life issues less frequently with black patients and their families than they do with white patients. Researchers, who interviewed more than 1,200 ICU physicians caring for 9,105 seriously ill patients at five major medical centers, concluded that doctors discussed prognoses with 58 percent of white patients and 41 percent of black patients. In addition, only 43 percent of the ICU doctors reported feeling comfortable during these conversations with black patients. (It's worth noting, however, that the interviews were conducted between 1989 and 1994, which makes the data sufficiently dated.)

Previous data has shown that ICU physicians, when predicting the likelihood that a patient will survive, were less likely to predict that their African-American patients would do so, while in reality, such patients were statistically more likely to survive. Given this concern, as well as the fact that physician discussions can influence family decisions to take steps like pulling life support, it's critical that researchers better understand factors influencing ICU physicians' communication with blacks in the ICU, said Dr. J. Daryl Thornton of the CRHD.

To learn more about the study:
- read this HealthDay News piece

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