Sunday, February 11, 2007

A Chance to Pick Hospice, and Still Hope to Live - New York Times

The American health care system has long given patients a terrible choice: people told that they have a terminal illness must forgo advanced medical treatment to qualify for hospice care. Cancer patients have to pass up chemotherapy, for example, or patients with kidney failure must abandon dialysis.

Forcing patients into this either-or decision has prompted many who might benefit from a hospice program to instead opt for expensive hospital care that may end up costing Medicare and other insurers far more.

But now, some hospice programs and private health insurers are taking a new approach that may persuade more patients to get hospice care for the last months of life. These programs give patients the medical comfort and social support traditionally available through hospice care, while at the same time letting them receive sophisticated medical treatments that may slow or even halt their disease.

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