March 18, 2009

Devout more likely to seek aggressive care

For many, this would seem counter-intuitive unless one concludes that they believe that life is sacred and have more hope; but there's no excuse for not having legal documents in place

Religious dying patients more likely to get aggressive care

Patients who rely heavily on their religious faith to cope with terminal cancer are more likely to receive intensive life-prolonging measures in their last week of life, Boston researchers reported yesterday.

In a study at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Massachusetts General Hospital, and five other sites, 345 people with advanced cancer were interviewed about the importance of religion in dealing with their illness, and their preferences for care. Most of them were Christian.

About 80 percent of the patients said they used religion to some extent to cope with their illness and more than half said they prayed, meditated, or engaged in religious study daily. More than 30 percent said their faith was the most important thing that kept them going.

The patients who leaned the most heavily on their faith were nearly three times more likely to choose and receive more aggressive care near death, such as ventilators or cardiopulmonary resuscitation. They were less likely to have advanced care planning in place, such as do-not-resuscitate orders, living wills, and healthcare proxies.

Posted by Jill Fallon at March 18, 2009 10:38 PM | Permalink