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Study shows terminally-ill cancer patients die faster in hospitals than at home

Terminal illness

(NaturalNews) Most people don't want to die; even fewer want to die in a hospital. When faced with the specter of death, most patients would prefer to die at home, but fear they might lose quality care in doing so. According to a recent study, contrary to popular belief, terminally ill cancer patients who choose to die at home not only receive good medical care, but they tend to live longer than terminally ill patients bound to a hospital facility.

The authors of the Japanese study, published in the journal, Cancer, reviewed 2,069 patients who received palliative care between September 2012 and April 2014. Approximately 1,582 of the patients died at a hospital, whereas the remaining 487 died at home. Exactly 58 specialist palliative care services were included.

Respecting the wishes of the dying

Palliative care, otherwise known as comfort care, does not focus on treating or mitigating the underlying condition. Instead, it is intended to keep terminally ill patients as comfort as possible while respecting their dying wishes.

After adjusting several factors that impact mortality rates, such as where the individual lives, the team found that patients who received end-of-life care at home often lived significantly longer than patients who received such care at a hospital.

The researchers also referenced the weeks' prognosis group using the Palliative Care Study predictor model, which estimated that prognoses were on average 36 days for patients who died at home and 29 days for patients who died in hospitals.

"The cancer patient and family tend to be concerned that the quality of medical treatment provided at home will be inferior to that given in a hospital and that survival might be shortened," said lead author Dr. Jun Hamano of the University of Tsukuba in Japan.

"However, our finding - that home death does not actually have a negative influence on the survival of cancer patients at all, and rather may have a positive influence - could suggest that the patient and family can choose the place of death in terms of their preference and values," he added.

The authors believe that the results of the study should encourage doctors to respect the rights of cancer patients by allowing them to die at home. Previous research has shown that more patients who do not receive chemotherapy die where they want to, in comparison to patients who receive invasive chemotherapy during the last few months of life.

Check in, check out

The problem isn't limited to Japan either. In other countries touted for having socialized medicine, like Canada for example, approximately 70 percent of deaths occur in hospitals, according to Statistics Canada. When asked about their dying preference, however, most Canadians say they would prefer to die at home.

Other research, such as a 2013 review, found that people who were treated at home were more likely to die there, and less likely to experience the burdens of the disease. In addition, at-home care did not make the grief of the family worse. In fact, according to a 2014 study, home-based end-of-life care was linked to lower medical expenses.

Unfortunately, the choice to die at home isn't always a feasible option. Several factors, including the progression of the disease, the need to control symptoms, limited family support and availability, among other unexpected health problems, deter many terminally ill patients from dying in the comfort of their own homes.

"Patients, families, and clinicians should be reassured that good home hospice care does not shorten patient life, and even may achieve longer survival," Hamano concluded.

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