One of the most pervasive ideas about death in America is that we don’t do it well, dying in hospital beds after enduring unnecessary medical procedures instead of at home. It’s our uncomfortable relationship with death, the thinking goes, that’s pushing the relentless rise of our health-care spending to the highest in the world.
A new study of cancer patients over age 65 complicates that notion, finding that while pieces of the story are right, much of it is not. Among the seven countries studied, American cancer patients were the least likely to die in a hospital bed. They spent the fewest days in the hospital during the final six months of life. Hospital spending during that period was high, but trailed Canada and Norway.
“When I tell people the results — we have the lowest deaths in the hospital and we’re not the most expensive — there isn’t a single person who isn’t surprised and shocked,” said Ezekiel J. Emanuel, the leader of the study and an architect of the Affordable Care Act who now heads the medical ethics and health policy department at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine. “We’ve spent two years going over this data meticulously precisely because we were shocked.”
– The Washington Post