KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Studies Offer Insights Into End-Of-Life Directives

News reports focus on how doctors' religious beliefs and U.S. laws impact decisions made in end-of-life care.

Sacramento Bee: A Doctor's Religious Beliefs May Influence His End-Of-Life Care
There are many questions you might be tempted to ask your doctor. … A new study suggests that there may also be reason to ask about their personal religious beliefs. A study published in the Journal of Medical Ethics suggests that doctors who are less religious are far more likely to take aggressive measures to treat conditions, like pain, at the end of life even if the treatment may hasten death. Nonreligious doctors are also more likely to engage in discussions with patients about their end-of-life wishes and preferences (1/16).

Reuters: U.S. Laws A Barrier For Advance Directives
U.S. laws surrounding advanced planning for end-of-life care set up too many practical roadblocks, according to a report published Monday. In a study of advance directive laws across all U.S. states, researchers found that the documents used in end-of-life planning were written in legalese that the average American would be hard-pressed to understand (Norton, 1/18).

Kaiser Health News: Insuring Your Health: Making End-Of-Life Decisions Is Hard On Family Members
In her latest KHN consumer column, Michelle Andrews writes: "Most people would agree that when the time comes, they want a 'good death.' But what that means is all too often left up in the air until a crisis strikes or the stricken person is no longer able to communicate his wishes or his advance planning documents are not clear. When that happens, spouses, adult children, siblings and others find themselves in the unenviable role of surrogate decision-makers, trying to divine, sometimes with very few facts and under very emotional circumstances, what people they love would have decided to do if they were able to choose" (Andrews, 1/18).

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