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Discussing end-of-life care is not harmful

Recent research shows that discussing end-of-life care with a physician is not harmful to older patients. The positive research is contrary to recent claims of "death panels" that some say make seniors think that planning care for the end of their lives may allow healthcare professionals to cut their lives short.

The term "death panels" has undermined efforts by healthcare professionals who seek to provide quality end-of-live care, according to lead researcher Dr. Stacy M. Fischer of the University of Colorado School of Medicine. In a study of 256 patients at three different hospitals who were followed for six years, there as no difference in survival rates for patients who had an end-of-life plan in place compared with those who did not. In addition, there was no difference in survival rates for those who had a living will in their medical record and those who did not.

"Our findings are reassuring. They support health care providers, who can initiate these discussions, and policy makers, who seek to reimburse these time consuming discussions," said Fischer. "Most importantly, our findings are reassuring for patients and families who desire these discussions with their health care providers."