Doctors Choose Less Aggressive Care Before They Die
What kind of treatment would a doctor choose if he or she were facing death?
That’s a common question among patients, and a new study suggests that most doctors opt for less aggressive treatment than the average person wants.
Researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston compared 2,396 doctors and 665,579 members of the general population, all at least 66 years old, who died in 2004 or 2005 in four U.S. states. They analyzed services received in the last six months of life, including surgery, hospice care, intensive care, and whether the person died in a hospital.
Overall, the doctors received less aggressive care. About 28 percent of them died in a hospital, compared to 32 percent of the general population. About 25 percent of doctors had surgery in the last six months of life, compared to about 27 percent of the general public. And about 26 percent of doctors were admitted to intensive care units in the last months of life, versus about 28 percent of the general population.
Doctors were more likely, however, to receive hospice care and to use less costly care before death. “Doctors understand (that) modern medicine can both help and harm people, especially at the end of life, and they understand its limits,” said lead author Joel Weissman.
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