Blacks more likely to opt for life-sustaining measures at end of life

May 28, 2009

When faced with a terminal illness, African-American seniors were two times more likely than whites to say they would want life-prolonging treatments, according to a University of Pittsburgh study available online and published in the June issue of the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

The study, led by Amber E. Barnato, M.D., M.P.H., associate professor of medical, clinical and translational science and , University of Pittsburgh, was based on interviews and surveys with more than 2,800 Medicare beneficiaries 65 years and older, making it the largest nationally representative sample of U.S. seniors' end-of-life treatment preferences. Overall, the majority of Medicare beneficiaries surveyed preferred not to die in a hospital or to receive life-sustaining measures at the end of life.

During interviews, study respondents were asked about their treatment preferences in the event they were diagnosed with a terminal illness and had less than a year to live. More African-Americans (18 percent) than whites (8 percent) reported that they would prefer to die in a hospital. African-Americans (28 percent) also were more likely than whites (15 percent) to report that they would opt for life-prolonging drugs, even if the treatment made them feel worse all of the time.

Only 49 percent of African-Americans compared to 74 percent of whites responded that they would want potentially life-shortening palliative drugs (for pain and comfort only). Lastly, when asked whether they would opt for mechanical ventilation to extend their lives for a week, 24 percent of African-Americans said they would, compared to 13 percent of whites. When mechanical ventilation would extend life by one month, this percentage rose to 36 percent in African-Americans, compared to 21 percent in whites.

"We collected detailed information about personal and that might explain the relationship between African-Americans and preference for more intensive end-of-life treatment. An overly optimistic view of the ability of mechanical ventilation, a breathing machine, to save lives and return people to their normal activities explained some, but not all, of this difference," said Dr. Barnato.

Although the study looked at differences in treatment preferences by race, Dr. Barnato cautions it should not be viewed as an invitation to generalize. "As doctors, we should ask each patient and family about their goals of treatment, then offer the treatments that meet those goals, rather than making assumptions about treatment preferences based on race," she said.

Source: University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences (news : web)

Explore further: Simulation-based training improves endoscopy execution

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Minorities, whites get equal care in hospitals

Mar 11, 2008

A University of Maryland study of whether people receive different quality of hospital care because of their race or ethnicity found that when whites and minorities are admitted to a hospital for the same reason, they receive ...

Recommended for you

Simulation-based training improves endoscopy execution

Oct 18, 2014

(HealthDay)—Simulation-based training (SBT) improves clinicians' performance of gastrointestinal endoscopy in both test settings and clinical practice, according to research published in the October issue ...

Data sharing in pharmaceutical industry shows progress

Oct 16, 2014

To enhance the transparency of clinical trials for new drugs, a number of pharmaceutical firms have begun sharing data with investigators outside their own companies. Brian L. Strom, chancellor of Rutgers Biomedical and Health ...

Swiss drug maker Roche posts flat 3Q sales

Oct 16, 2014

(AP)—Swiss drugmaker Roche Holding AG has reported "stable" or flat sales for the first nine months of 2013 but says the results show strong demand for its cancer drugs and emerging new products.

User comments : 0