Doctors Lack Training for End-of-Life Care

Dying patients pay the price, new study finds

WEDNESDAY, Nov. 23, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- Too few U.S. doctors receive formal training in end-of-life care, a new study finds.

The result, according to the researchers: too many terminally ill patients who are receiving painful or ineffective treatments that do nothing to prolong or enhance their lives.

Researchers surveyed 275 residency programs in Michigan, and found that only 46 percent of them offered formal end-of-life care training and only 31 percent of the programs offered formal training in hospice care.

"There have been slight improvements. But the bad news is we are not making huge strides in how we're training these new doctors. It's grossly inadequate," study director Karen Ogle, a professor of family practice, said in a prepared statement.

She said many residency directors remain reluctant to teach new doctors how to provide their patients with a "good death."

"There is a common theme that medicine has become too cure-focused or over-technologically-focused. Death is still viewed as a medical failure. We remain a death-denying culture. We don't like to talk about it, and we don't recognize grief very well," Ogle said.

One solution to the problem is to promote more end-of-life training by making it part of accreditation and exams for doctors and other health-care workers.

"We like to say 'if you test it, they will come.' If questions about palliative care and hospice are on a licensure exam, people will take notice," Ogle said.

The findings appear in the current issue of the Journal of Palliative Medicine.

More information

The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more about end-of-life care.

SOURCE: Michigan State University, news release, Nov. 7, 2005
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