October 15th, 2009
Reports the Associated Press via WGAL-TV:
A surprising number of frail, elderly Americans in nursing homes are suffering from futile care at the end of their lives, two new federally funded studies reveal.
One found that putting nursing home residents with failing kidneys on dialysis didn’t improve their quality of life and may even push them into further decline. The other showed many with advanced dementia will die within six months and perhaps should have hospice care instead of aggressive treatment.
Medical experts say the new research emphasizes the need for doctors, caregivers and families to consider making the feeble elderly who are near death comfortable rather than treating them as if a cure were possible — more like the palliative care given to terminally ill cancer patients.
“We probably need to be offering a palliative care option to many more patients to make the last days of their lives as comfortable as possible,” said Dr. Mark Zeidel of the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, who was not involved in the studies.
Palliative care focuses on managing symptoms of a disease and a main goal is to relieve pain at the end of life.
End-of-life care became a divisive issue in the national health care reform debate this summer after one proposal included Medicare reimbursement for doctors who consult with patients on end-of-life counseling. Critics called the counseling “death panels” and a step toward euthanasia. The Obama administration denied those claims, yet has signaled the Medicare benefit will be dropped.
The new studies are published in Thursday’s New England Journal of Medicine.
Find out more at WGAL.