A California HealthCare Foundation poll revealed that very few Californians have talked to their doctors about end-of-life health care despite a desire to do so. The survey also found broad public support for reimbursing physicians who take the time to talk to them about their end-of-life options, the very issue that sparked the infamous "death panel" debate in 2009 over President Obama's federal health care legislation.
Above all, results revealed a glaring need for doctors to talk to their patients about their options, and for people in general to make their wishes known to those who will have to make decisions about their care.
Among the findings that showed the disparity between what people said they wanted at the end of their lives and what actually occurred:
- 80 percent of respondents said they planned to talk to their doctor about their care in dying, but only 7 percent had done so.
- 60 percent said it was "extremely important" to make sure their families weren't burdened by tough decisions about their care, but 56 percent had not expressed their wishes to the person who would be making those decisions.
- 70 percent said they preferred to die at home, but just 32 percent of those people had made those arrangements.
Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST) is a standardized medical form on bright pink paper that families must have available to show emergency responders what specific treatments a seriously ill patient does or does not want.
The SFMS is the host of a grant to promote broader use of POLST in clinical settings in San Francisco. Click here to download a copy of the POLST form. Please print the form on 65# cover ultra pink card stock.
The survey, "Final Chapter: Californians' Attitudes and Experiences With Death and Dying," can be found at links.sfgate.com/ZLHK.