Study: End-of-Life Counseling Improves patientsAE Moods
Byline: Carla K. Johnson AP Medical Writer
As a political uproar rages over end-of-life counseling, a new study finds offering such care to dying cancer patients improves their mood and quality of life.
The study of 322 patients in rural New Hampshire and Vermont also suggests the counseling didnAEt discourage people from going to the hospital. The research didnAEt look at costs.
The studyAEs publication in WednesdayAEs Journal of the American Medical Association coincides with the fight over health care overhaul proposals in Congress.
Some conservatives have called end-of-life counseling included in one version of the bill "death panels" and a step toward euthanasia.
A House proposal allows Medicare to pay doctors to chat with patients, if they desire it, about living wills, hospice and appointing a trusted person to make decisions when the patient is incapacitated.
President Barack Obama called the euthanasia charge "simply dishonest." Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has said the end-of-life proposal is likely to be dropped from the final bill.
In the new study, trained nurses did the end-of-life counseling, mostly by phone, with patients and family caregivers using a model based on national guidelines.
All the patients in the study had been diagnosed with terminal cancer. Half were assigned to receive usual care. The other half received usual care plus counseling about managing symptoms, communicating with health care providers and finding hospice care.
Patients and their caregivers also could attend monthly 90-minute group meetings with a doctor and a nurse to ask questions and discuss problems in whatAEs called a "shared medical appointment. …