Study: Futile end-of-life care costs millions, not warranted

Sept. 11, 2013 at 3:44 PM
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CHICAGO, Sept. 11 (UPI) -- A study of more than 1,300 patients in four U.S. medical center intensive care units found some of end-of-life care both costly and futile.

The three-month study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Internal Medicine asked 36 doctors in hospital critical care units to evaluate daily treatment they considered futile. That included treatments in which the downside overwhelmingly outweighed potential benefits, treatment a patient would not survive outside the intensive care unit, treatment when a patient was considered brain-dead, treatment that could not reach a patient's goals and treatment when death was imminent, The New York Times reported.

Of the 1,316 patients included in the research, 123 got treatment doctors regarded as futile and 11 received treatment before they were transferred to hospice care at a cost of millions.

Researchers said 68 percent of the patients who received futile treatment died in the hospital, 16 percent died within six months and the rest remained in chronic poor health.

"This ought to be a wake-up call that patients are at times receiving advanced medical treatment that is not benefiting them," senior study author, Dr. Neil S. Wenger, professor of medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles, told the Times.

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