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End-of-Life Plans: Doctors and Patients Communication Channel Blocked

Update Date: Apr 01, 2013 11:03 PM EDT

A new study released Monday shows that elderly Canadian patients discuss advance care planning (ACP) with their physicians, but often times those end-of-life plans are not added to the patients' medical records.

According to findings from a study carried out in Canada and published online April 1 in JAMA Internal Medicine, medical charts documented such plans for only about 30 percent of those who had them.

"To our knowledge, there has been no rigorous audit or evaluation of ACP from the patient or family perspective using validated questionnaires that assess the frequency of engagement in key ACP activities," write Daren K. Heyland, MD, FRCPC, from the Clinical Evaluation Research Unit, Department of Medicine, Kingston General Hospital, Ontario, Canada, and colleagues.

Heyland's team studied medical records 278 patients at risk of dying within six months and 225 family members complete questionnaires about end-of-life care decisions.

Among these patients, more than 76 percent had thought about their end-of-life care. Of these, nearly 12 percent wanted life-prolonging care, 48 percent had an advance care plan and 73 percent had named a person who could make decisions about their health care, the researchers found.

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