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Monday, May 27, 2013 01:22 pm

Seeing is believing

In “Happier endings,” I pointed out that a lot of people make decisions about end-of-life care that are not fully informed. Jonathan Rauch, a contributing editor at The Atlantic and at the National Journal, gave us a fascinating report in the former magazine on work going on at Harvard University Medical School that tries to change that.

Medicos there made videos showing patients dying of cancer. They then asked two groups of patients whether they preferred life-prolonging care (which does everything possible to keep patients alive), limited care (an intermediate option), or comfort care (which aims to maximize comfort and relieve pain). Some patients were given only spoken descriptions of the process, while others were shown the video too.

More than 90 percent of the patients who watched the video chose comfort care, while only 22 percent of those who’d only been told what awaited them did so. 

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