Study: Education Needed To Improve End-Of-Life Care

March 01, 1997


CHAPEL HILL -- Intensive education for doctors and special programs within hospitals are more likely to change the kind of care dying people receive than advance care directives, sometimes called "living wills," according to a new University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Duke University study.

Altering physicians' behavior, reducing costs and improving both pain control and patient satisfaction should be future goals, authors of the study say.

A report on the findings appears in the March 1 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine, a medical journal. Authors are Drs. Laura C. Hanson and Marion Danis, assistant professor and associate professor of medicine, respectively, at the UNC-CH School of Medicine, and Dr. James A. Tulsky, assistant professor of medicine at Duke.

"Physicians and nurses have long struggled with decisions about appropriate care for patients who are near death, and during the past 20 years patients and their families have become more likely to participate in these decisions," Hanson said. "Many people now believe that Americans are dying in too much pain, with excessive technology and little human dignity at too great a cost."

More than half of people polled even support physician-assisted suicide as a way to escape the failure of modern health care, she said.

"With increased public awareness has come a demand for new standards of medical care near the end of life, better tailored to the needs of the one who is dying," Hanson said. "Despite intense attention to this problem, an effective solution remains elusive."

For their research, designed to see what efforts work best, the physicians reviewed all academic papers they could find published between 1990 and 1996 describing special, intensive programs to improve end-of-life care. Sixteen studies met the guidelines they established, including eight that tried to give patients more control over treatment, five that attempted to change the way doctors treated dying patients and three that sought to influence both groups" behavior.

"The programs to increase patient control were successful at increasing the use of advance directives or living will," Hanson said. "Unfortunately, when researchers went on to look at the impact of living wills on patient care, they did not change the treatments that patients actually received."

Sophisticated educational techniques were needed to motivate doctors to change their behaviors, and some reduced their use of life-sustaining treatments for dying people following that education, she said. None of the special efforts studied succeeded in cutting the cost of medical care or reducing pain and suffering, however.

"A larger take-home message from this research is that we should not expect simple strategies like living wills to change difficult decisions about how best to care for dying patients," Hanson said.

- 30 -

Note: Hanson can be reached at (919) 966-2276. Her pager number is (919) 966-4131 and then 4722.

Contact: David Williamson

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Related Pain Articles from Brightsurf:

Pain researchers get a common language to describe pain
Pain researchers around the world have agreed to classify pain in the mouth, jaw and face according to the same system.

It's not just a pain in the head -- facial pain can be a symptom of headaches too
A new study finds that up to 10% of people with headaches also have facial pain.

New opioid speeds up recovery without increasing pain sensitivity or risk of chronic pain
A new type of non-addictive opioid developed by researchers at Tulane University and the Southeast Louisiana Veterans Health Care System accelerates recovery time from pain compared to morphine without increasing pain sensitivity, according to a new study published in the Journal of Neuroinflammation.

The insular cortex processes pain and drives learning from pain
Neuroscientists at EPFL have discovered an area of the brain, the insular cortex, that processes painful experiences and thereby drives learning from aversive events.

Pain, pain go away: new tools improve students' experience of school-based vaccines
Researchers at the University of Toronto and The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) have teamed up with educators, public health practitioners and grade seven students in Ontario to develop and implement a new approach to delivering school-based vaccines that improves student experience.

Pain sensitization increases risk of persistent knee pain
Becoming more sensitive to pain, or pain sensitization, is an important risk factor for developing persistent knee pain in osteoarthritis (OA), according to a new study by researchers from the Université de Montréal (UdeM) School of Rehabilitation and Hôpital Maisonneuve Rosemont Research Centre (CRHMR) in collaboration with researchers at Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM).

Becoming more sensitive to pain increases the risk of knee pain not going away
A new study by researchers in Montreal and Boston looks at the role that pain plays in osteoarthritis, a disease that affects over 300 million adults worldwide.

Pain disruption therapy treats source of chronic back pain
People with treatment-resistant back pain may get significant and lasting relief with dorsal root ganglion (DRG) stimulation therapy, an innovative treatment that short-circuits pain, suggests a study presented at the ANESTHESIOLOGY® 2018 annual meeting.

Sugar pills relieve pain for chronic pain patients
Someday doctors may prescribe sugar pills for certain chronic pain patients based on their brain anatomy and psychology.

Peripheral nerve block provides some with long-lasting pain relief for severe facial pain
A new study has shown that use of peripheral nerve blocks in the treatment of Trigeminal Neuralgia (TGN) may produce long-term pain relief.

Read More: Pain News and Pain Current Events is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to