END-OF-LIFE-CARE: OR Study Finds Many Die in Pain
"[M]any Oregonians are dying in pain and being transferred from one health care setting to another at the end of life with poor communication between settings," according to "The Oregon Report Card: Improving Care of the Dying." The report, which was complied by the Center for Ethics in Health Care at Oregon Health Sciences University, found that 34% of the families of Oregonians who died between 1996 and 1997 "said their loved one was in moderate or severe pain in the final week of his or her life." Principal investigator Dr. Susan Tolle noted that while this is better than the 50% found in national studies, pain control remains a "significant problem" in Oregon. "As much as we bragged about Oregon being a leader in the medical use of morphine, we still have plenty of work to do, and I don't want anyone to think we're all done," she said. The survey also found that 52% of the families "said their loved one was transferred from one place to another ... at least once in the final month of life," and "many said the transfer was poorly coordinated and stressful," the Portland Oregonian reports. Also, "while 34% of the patients were in hospice care, one-fifth had fewer than three visits from hospice workers before they died," which may reflect a "national trend of patients getting referred to hospice too late to fully benefit from the care." Dr. Patrick Dunn, chair of the Task Force to Improve Care of Terminally Ill Oregonians, said the report "helps to answer a number of questions with regard to the physician-assisted suicide debate and where we are with handling pain and suffering issues" (Hoover Barnett, 6/30).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.