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End-of-life counsel from doctors seen as lacking

Americans routinely tell researchers they don’t want to spend their final days tethered to machines in a hospital, preferring to die at home with less invasive treatments. But that rarely happens.

Now, a study from Brigham and Women’s Hospital suggests the biggest reason for that disconnect appears to be the doctors who treat those patients. The physicians, the study suggests, have outsized influence in shaping how patients spend their final days.

That has profound implications not just for patients but for medical care more broadly, with end-of-life care accounting for a staggering share of all medical spending.

“For so many patients, no one has ever sat down with them and talked with them about hospice care, instead of being on a ventilator or in a nursing home,” said the study’s lead researcher, Dr. Ziad Obermeyer, an assistant professor of emergency medicine and health care policy at Harvard Medical School. “As physicians, we need to have these conversations earlier.”

To reach their conclusion, Brigham researchers scoured the medical records of thousands of terminally ill cancer patients nationwide. Click here to read the full article.

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