Los Angeles Times, May 17, 2011

End-of-life planning isn't exactly fun—especially when you are very sick and your days are probably numbered. But researchers at Pennsylvania State College of Medicine and Pennsylvania State University are trying to make it easier with a computer program that helps patients think through difficult questions, such as whether they want aggressive treatment to prolong their lives or whether they'd rather maximize their quality of life, even if it means they'd probably die sooner. The researchers tested their program with 20 patients who had moderate-to-severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The patients sat down with a computer and worked their way through the program. At the end, the program produced an advanced healthcare directive—also known as a living will—to convey to doctors what they would want in their final days. Overall, the patients were quite satisfied with those computer-generated advanced directives. On a scale of 1 to 10 (with 10 being the highest), the patients gave their living wills an average score of 8.5. They also liked the computer program itself, giving it an average rating of 8.6.

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