Race affects end-of-life care, study finds

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Racial disparities still exist when it comes to end-of-life care, a new study suggests. The study found that black and Asian patients are less likely than whites and Hispanics to be enrolled in a hospice program in the final months of life.

Of the roughly 41,000 terminal cancer patients examined for the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center study, black patients were 9% less likely to be enrolled in a hospice program than white patients. Also, 26% were more likely to be hospitalized two or more times in the last month of life than whites. Similarly, Asian patients were 24% less likely to enroll in hospice than whites, and 17% were more likely to be hospitalized, according to the research. Both groups were also much more likely to die in the hospital than whites or Hispanics.

Researchers suggest a number of factors could be involved in the disparities. Many recent studies find black patients to be less open to hospice care than white patients. But researchers noted that little is known about the proclivities of Asian patients. Discovering the root of the differences, whether personal preference, unequal access to end-of-life treatments or both will hopefully lead to improved end-of-life care for all patients, researchers say. Their study appears in the January issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.
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