Nearly all physicians support efforts that focus on quality of life for dying patients over extending their lives for as long as possible, according to a poll released on Tuesday.
The issue of end-of-life care came up during the federal health reform law debate, when opponents of the overhaul mischaracterized a provision that would have reimbursed physicians for end-of-life care consultations as "death panels." The provision ultimately was left out of the final reform law.
The poll of 500 board-certified physicians—which was conducted by the Regence Foundation on behalf of National Journal—found that 96% of respondents emphasize quality of life over length of life for dying patients, and a similar majority said the U.S. health system should prioritize palliative care services.
A National Journal poll conducted in February asked the same question to the public and found that 71% agreed with physicians. However, 79% of physicians said the U.S. spends too much on trying to keep patients alive, while only 37% of the public held a similar belief.
The poll identified several barriers to palliative care efforts. Nearly 25% of physicians said they were uncomfortable discussing end-of-life options with patients and 24% said they were unprepared to do so. A similar number of physicians said they resisted bringing up palliative care with patients to avoid appearing as if they had given up. Eighty-two percent cited reimbursement as a barrier, with 95% calling for private insurance coverage and 94% supporting Medicare coverage for palliative care (Sanger-Katz, National Journal, 11/15 [subscription required]; Baker, "Healthwatch," The Hill, 11/15).
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