Talking About Matters of Life and Death

Doctor patient end of life discussions do not affect survival

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Doctors are hesitant to broach the admittedly difficult topic of end-of-life care. Recent research finds such conversations do not affect survival or quality of life.

There's no harm in talking about how one chooses to be cared for at the end of life and documenting those wishes. Those are the findings of recently published research.

"Don't be afraid to talk to your doctor and family about how you want to be cared for at the end of your life."

A total of 356 patients who were at risk of dying within a year were followed for six years - from 2003 to 2009.

The study found that having end-of-life discussions or having a living will documenting specific end-of-life care issues had no impact on survival rates.

Lead researcher, Stacy M. Fischer, M.D. of the University of Colorado School of Medicine, says these findings should be "reassuring" to physicians, patients and their families.

She notes that the negative term "death panels" has entered the lexicon and made people afraid of talking about a natural event.

Dr. Fischer hopes this research will encourage healthcare providers to initiate these important conversations with their patients and help policy makers approve reimbursing physicians for these discussions.

More importantly, Dr. Fisher believes these findings will be helpful to patients and their families and encourage them to begin talking with their healthcare providers about these important topics.

The article reporting findings of this study appears in the September, 2011 issue of Journal of Hospital Medicine.



Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
September 30, 2011
Last Updated:
October 3, 2011