Talking about end-of-life care doesn't affect survival rates

Contrary to common concerns, discussing end-of-life care with patients doesn't lead to increased mortality, according to new study published in the Journal of Hospital Medicine.

After studying 356 patients admitted at three different hospitals where patients had low or medium risks of dying during the next year, researchers found that having advance directive discussions didn't increase or decrease a patient's risk of death. There was no difference in survival rates for patients who had a living will in their medical record and those who did not.

"Our findings are reassuring. They support healthcare providers, who can initiate these discussions, and policy makers, who seek to reimburse these time-consuming discussions," said lead researcher Dr. Stacy M. Fischer of the University of Colorado School of Medicine. "Most importantly, our findings are reassuring for patients and families who desire these discussions with their healthcare providers."

Fischer also said she hopes the study helps end the controversy surrounding end-of-life discussions, especially the concept of "death panels," which suggest that talking about end-of-life care will "somehow lead families or healthcare providers into stopping providing care," according to Health Day.

However, the study only examined patients who were mildly or moderately ill and didn't look at how advance directive discussions could affect patients who were expected to die soon, notes Health Day.

The palliative care (end-of-life) specialty is one of the fastest growing specialties in the United States, soaring 138 percent in the past decade.

To learn more:
- here's the study abstract
- read the press release
- read the HealthDay article

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