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A new survey asked physicians to evaluate the importance of palliative care and current barriers to providing effective end of life care. Comparing results to earlier surveys, researchers found distinctions between physicians’ and the general population’s view of the healthcare at the end of life.

The survey, released by National Journal as a part of their Policy Summit Series, found that physicians overwhelmingly voiced the belief that quality of life should be enhanced for seriously ill individuals, even if it means a shorter life. 96 percent of physicians would rather enhance quality of life as opposed to extending life through any means necessary. Although the margin of agreement is smaller at 71 percent, a majority of Americans agree with physicians on this point. 97 percent of Americans believe that it is important for patients and their families to be educated about palliative care and end of life care options, but 67 percent of physicians report that their patients were not very informed or not informed at all about palliative care options. Fearing it will indicate to the patient that the physician has given up or is admitting failure, many physicians are often hesitant to begin the discussion of palliative care options and often wait for the patient to bring up the topic.   

At the event where the report was released, panelists discussed this gap between the desire to integrate palliative care into treatment options and the reluctance to discuss the topic. Amy S. Kelley, Assistant Professor of Geriatrics and Palliative Medicine at The Mount Sinai Hospital, discussed her experiences in geriatrics. Her patients may agree that palliative care is beneficial, but even if they are facing a serious illness, believe that they are not at the point to require such care yet.

Panelists agreed that in order for palliative care to be integrated into our current healthcare system we must remove the assumption that palliative care cannot work in tandem with curative care and start the conversation about end of life sooner. “Palliative care is out there,” said Amy S. Kelley “and it can work for patients at anytime regardless of prognosis or diagnosis.”

Read the press release issued by National Journal about the poll’s results.

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