Study: Terminally ill put off talk of hospice

Even when they're clearly at death's door, patients tend to put off conversations about end-of-life decisions, according to a new Harvard Medical School study.

The study found that only about half of the 1,517 patients with metastasized lung cancer who were surveyed had discussed hospice care with their physician or other provider within four to seven months of being diagnosed. Virtually all of these patients die within two years.

The likelihood of discussing hospice was even lower among some ethnicities. About 43 percent of Hispanics and 49 percent of African-Americans had discussed the possibility, compared with 57 percent of Asians and 53 percent of whites. The longer the patient expected to live, the less likely they were to open up a hospice discussion.

Doctors, meanwhile, are also reluctant to discuss emotional and complex subjects like hospice care and death, with many preferring to discuss relatively cut-and-dried issues like chemotherapy, researchers noted.

To learn more about the study:
- read this piece in The Boston Globe

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