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Thursday, July 23, 2015 02:16 pm

A beginning for happier endings?

 In my 2013 column Happier endings” I deplored the fact that doctors of patients in the final stages of incurable diseases so often continue to administer invasive or unpleasant treatments intended to prolong life when what patients and their families really want is  help to die painlessly.

Good news, then, from the folks who run Medicare, as explained by New York Times reporter .


Most older Americans close to death have to make a difficult choice: continue with traditional medical treatment or switch to hospice care, which focuses not on a cure but on easing their remaining days.


Now, Medicare is testing a third alternative: both.


The new pilot program, designed to affect the care of about 150,000 Medicare patients over the next four years, will allow patients with terminal diseases to receive hospice care to manage suffering and counseling to plan for the end of life — but still see doctors and get medical treatments, like chemotherapy or hospitalization, intended to fight their illnesses.


Sanger-Katz explains that the test program is based on research that shows that patients with access to both so-called palliative care and traditional medicine often end up with a better quality of life and may even live long than those treated with traditional medicine alone.


Why a test to justify Medicare reimbursement for an approach that everybody already knows works? Because too many physicians won’t take your word for it. 


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