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Terminally ill suffer unnecessarilycomment (0)

January 2, 2003

Among the 1.6 million Americans living in nursing homes, nearly half suffer from persistent pain that often goes unnoticed or untreated, according to a coalition including the American Medical Association, the American Association of Retired Persons and religious groups.

Where terminally ill patients die and how much they suffer depends largely on the health care resources available in the patient’s state, the group Last Acts concluded in a study of end-of-life care across the nation’s health care system.

Although previous studies have found that 70 percent of Americans would prefer to spend their final days at home, only 25 percent of the seriously ill die at home, the study found as it reviewed the quality of palliative care-relieving pain and symptoms while providing emotional and spiritual support to patients and family members. Most states received grades of C or lower.

The survey also found that 93 percent of Americans believe improving end-of-life care is important. However, 56 percent said care for the dying is only “fair” or worse.

Although hospice care is generally considered to be one of the best options, the study found it was not widely available in most states. Increasingly, the average length of stay in hospices has dropped to less than a week rather than the 60 days that is recommended for maximum benefit, Last Acts reported.


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