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Health Care Study: Discussing End-of-Life Choices Lowers Costs

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By Admin on March 10, 2009 9:47 AM

A health care study published Monday finds that patients who discuss their end-of-life care options with their physicians, and then make their wishes known, incur significantly lower health care costs in the final weeks of their lives.

The Archives of Internal Medicine study released Monday, Health Care Costs in the Last Week of Life: Associations with End-of-Life Conversations, compared the health care costs of 603 terminal cancer patients, based on whether or not they had discussed end-of-life care with their doctors. The report concludes that "Patients with advanced cancer who reported having end of life conversations with physicians had significantly lower health care costs in their final week of life. Higher costs were associated with worse quality of death."

Reuters reports that patients who have end-of-life care discussions with their doctors tend to choose cheaper "palliative" care options either at home or in a hospice, "to relieve suffering rather than to halt progression or cure the disease." Palliative care doesn't typically include "costly treatments like emergency resuscitation, ventilators to breathe for them and movement to a hospital's intensive care unit," according to Reuters.