Physicians prefer to delay end-of-life discussions

Although current guidelines recommend that physicians initiate end-of-life discussions when a patient has less than one year to live, most physicians prefer to postpone the conversation, according to a new study published in Cancer.

For the study, a Harvard Medical School researcher and colleagues surveyed 4,074 physicians and asked them to imagine treating an asymptomatic patient that had four-to-six months to live. The researchers found that:

  • 65% of physicians were willing to immediately discuss end-of-life options;
  • 44% were willing to discuss a patient’s do not resuscitate status;
  • 26% were willing to discuss hospice care; and
  • 21% were willing to discuss preferred site of death

(SOURCES: Advisory Board Daily Briefing, http://advisory.com, January 13, 2010; Cancer, http://interscience.wiley.com, Cancer 2010;000:000–000. VC 2010 American Cancer Society, accessed January 15, 2010)