Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Dartmouth Atlas Report on End-of-Life Cancer Care

Researchers at the Dartmouth Atlas Project released a new report today on care received by Medicare patients with advanced cancer at the end of life. Nearly one-third of those patients die in hospitals and ICUs, while half receive hospice care, according to the report. The report shows that end-of-life care varies significantly throughout the U.S., even among top academic medical centers. Bloomberg News interviewed lead author David Goodman saying:

“The biggest problem we have with end-of-life care for cancer patients is not overtreatment, it’s undertreatment when it comes to working for quality of life,” Goodman said in a telephone interview. “Patients want to live long, but they also want to live well.”

Goodman is co-principal investigator for Dartmouth Atlas in Lebanon, New Hampshire. That project, which was cited by President Barack Obama during the health-care debate, has issued reports for more than 20 years showing disparities in how medical resources are distributed and used.

“The hardest part of my job, bar none, is telling patients -- most of whom I have been working with for months, even years -- that I have nothing else to offer them,” Sledge, an oncologist who is co-director of the breast cancer program at Indiana University in Indianapolis, said in a telephone interview.

CBS News discussed patient's end-of-life care choices in this report: