As people near the end of their lives, many legal and medical issues arise. One of the most common problems is where cancer patients die.
Many cancer patients prefer to die at home due to the comfort of familiar surroundings and the lower costs than dying in a hospital. End-of-life hospital care can be prohibitively expensive, and these costs can significantly reduce what cancer patients pass to their heirs. Consequently, decisions about palliative care are important to most patients.
State palliative care laws
State law can have a significant impact on whether a cancer patient dies at home, in hospice care, or in a hospital. While some states have little to no laws regarding palliative care, many states do.
some states have prescriptive palliative care laws that require medical practitioners to offer patients home health care and hospice care options. Non-prescriptive palliative care laws provide for these alternatives to hospital care but don’t require physicians to offer them to patients.
Impact of palliative care laws on location of death
A recent study published in JAMA Network Open evaluated data available from US National Center for Health Statistics from Jan. 1, 2005, to Dec. 31, 2017. They limited the study to patients whose physicians reported cancer as the cause of death and correlated the location with state palliative care laws.
The study found that cancer patients who died in a state with prescriptive palliative care laws had an 18% higher chance of dying at home or in hospice than patients in a state without such laws. Cancer patients who passed away in a state with non-prescriptive palliative care laws had a 12% higher chance of dying at home or in hospice.
The bottom line is that palliative care laws have a significant impact on where cancer patients die.