Report: Living wills influence end-of-life care

NEWS IN BRIEF — Posted Aug. 9, 2004

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Patients who had living wills were more likely to die outside of a hospital, less likely to receive life-sustaining medical treatment, more likely to have had medical treatments withheld and more likely to have had efforts made to keep them comfortable and pain free, according to a report by University of Pittsburgh long-term-care researcher Howard D. Degenholtz, PhD, in the July 20 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Dr. Degenholtz and colleagues reviewed a national sample of 539 people older than 70 who died in the early 1990s, of which about 40% had living wills, 81% of which were written two years or more before death.

While other studies have shown that living wills do not influence patient care, Dr. Degenholtz concluded that those might have suffered from a selection bias, especially those based on data from terminal hospitalizations.

He also recommended that physicians discuss patient preferences for location of death during advance care planning.

Note: This item originally appeared at

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