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Dartmouth Atlas: Poor Care for Terminal Cancer Patients Widespread

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media, April 11, 2012

The Dartmouth report also found that at for-profit hospitals, 6.6% of patients received chemotherapy in the last 14 days of life but at not-for profit hospitals the rate was 6%. Hospitals with 150 beds or more provided 6.5% of dying cancer patients with chemotherapy, while at hospitals with fewer than 150 beds, 5.4% of patients received drug regimens.

Morden says that the Dartmouth group hopes to update its numbers to reflect more recent Medicare data, to see if more physicians and hospital-teams are getting better at following quality measures for dying patients.

Morden adds that it's up to policymakers to bring care practices into alignment with a patient's preferences in an honest way, because giving chemotherapy to someone who is going to be dying quickly is giving them false hope.

"I don't think we're doing them any service. There's a fair amount of evidence to say that it's painful, and toxic. We are dramatically decreasing quality and we may even be shortening life."


Cheryl Clark is senior quality editor and California correspondent for HealthLeaders Media. She is a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists.
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