A new study reported in the current issues of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) found that patients and their families benefit from having end-of-life counseling. The study showed that offering such care to dying cancer patients improved their mood and quality of life. The patients who got the counseling also lived longer, by more than five months on average. “This study confirms the benefits of end-of-life counseling, as have other studies. It’s shameful that opponents suggest that such counseling is harmful,” said Compassion & Choices President Barbara Coombs Lee.
The new study involved 322 patients in New Hampshire and Vermont who had been diagnosed with terminal cancer. Half were assigned to receive usual care. The other half received usual care plus counseling about managing symptoms, communicating with health care providers and finding hospice care. The study showed that the patients who got the counseling scored higher on quality of life and mood measures than patients who did not.
“Recently, an idea took hold that it’s highly dangerous and tyrannical to encourage
doctors to talk with patients about what kind of treatments they would want if they were
terminally ill and unable to speak for themselves. This notion is false. It’s time to admit
that talking about death won’t kill you, but not talking about it may increase unnecessary
suffering,” said Coombs Lee.