End of Life Conversations, Care and Costs

This article is more than 12 years old.

Talking to your doctor about how much intensive care you want at the end of life is associated with a more peaceful death and significant savings.

Researchers at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute asked 603 cancer patients whether they had talked to their doctor about the care they would like to receive if they were dying. They found that patients who did not discuss their wishes were more likely to go on a ventilator or have other agressive procedures, experienced more physical and mental pain and did not live longer than patients who did talk about a care plan with their physician. The study's senior author, Holly Prigerson, says a moderate increase in such conversations could save $76 million a year just among cancer patients.

"So it’s an unusual circumstance of a win win. When there are cost savings, it’s usually associated with some pain. Here, its literally the opposite, there’s more palliative, better quality of life, with lower costs."

The study is in the latest issue of Archives of Internal Medicine.

Martha Bebinger

This program aired on March 9, 2009. The audio for this program is not available.