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ARTICLE |

Is Economic Hardship on the Families of the Seriously Ill Associated With Patient and Surrogate Care Preferences?

Kenneth E. Covinsky, MD, MPH; C. Seth Landefeld, MD; Joan Teno, MD, MS; Alfred F. Connors Jr, MD; Neal Dawson, MD; Stuart Youngner, MD; Norman Desbiens, MD; Joanne Lynn, MD, MA; William Fulkerson, MD; Douglas Reding, MD; Robert Oye, MD; Russell S. Phillips, MD
Arch Intern Med. 1996;156(15):1737-1741. doi:10.1001/archinte.1996.00440140177019.
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Background:  Serious illness often causes economic hardship for patients' families. However, it is not known whether this hardship is associated with a preference for the goal of care to focus on maximizing comfort instead of maximizing life expectancy or whether economic hardship might give rise to disagreement between patients and surrogates over the goal of care.

Methods:  We performed a cross-sectional study of 3158 seriously ill patients (median age, 63 years; 44% women) at 5 tertiary medical centers with 1 of 9 diagnoses associated with a high risk of mortality. Two months after their index hospitalization, patients and surrogates were surveyed about patients' preferences for the primary goal of care: either care focused on extending life or care focused on maximizing comfort. Patients and surrogates were also surveyed about the financial impact of the illness on the patient's family.

Results:  A report of economic hardship on the family as a result of the illness was associated with a preference for comfort care over life-extending care (odds ratio, 1.26; 95% confidence interval, 1.07-1.48) in an age-stratified bivariate analysis. Similarly, in a multi-variable analysis controlling for patient demographics, illness severity, functional dependency, depression, anxiety, and pain, economic hardship on the family remained associated with a preference for comfort care over life-extending care (odds ratio, 1.31; 95% confidence interval, 1.10-1.57). Economic hardship on the family did not affect either the frequency or direction of patient-surrogate disagreements about the goal of care.

Conclusions:  In patients with serious illness, economic hardship on the family is associated with preferences for comfort care over life-extending care. However, economic hardship on the family does not appear to be a factor in patient-surrogate disagreements about the goal of care.Arch Intern Med. 1996;156:1737-1741

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The American Medical Association is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education to provide continuing medical education for physicians. The AMA designates this journal-based CME activity for a maximum of 1 AMA PRA Category 1 CreditTM per course. Physicians should claim only the credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity. Physicians who complete the CME course and score at least 80% correct on the quiz are eligible for AMA PRA Category 1 CreditTM.
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