Blacks More Likely Than Whites to Seek Life-Sustaining Care for Terminal Diseases, Serious Disabilities, Survey Finds
Blacks are more likely than whites to seek life-sustaining care at the end of life for terminal diseases or serious physical or mental disabilities, according to a survey published in the current issue of the journal Ethnicity & Disease, Reuters reports. For the survey, William Bayer of the University of Rochester and colleagues asked 50 black and 27 white men ages 50 and older whether they would seek life-sustaining care in eight different scenarios that involved different levels of mental and physical status -- such as dementia, coma and brain death. More than half of black respondents said they would seek life-sustaining care in the event that they had a chronic condition and were brain dead, compared with 11% of white respondents, according to the survey. In addition, almost 75% of black respondents said they would seek life-sustaining care in the event that they had a terminal disease and senile dementia, compared with 22.2% of white respondents, the survey found. The preferences of black survey respondents conflict with the "prevailing ethic" of the U.S. medical establishment that "it's not advisable to offer life-extending treatment to people in a terminal situation," Bayer said. Bayer decided to conduct the survey after he observed that blacks often sought life-sustaining care for family members against the recommendations of mostly white hospital staff members. He said that the position of the medical establishment is cultural and does not necessarily provide economic benefits (Harding, Reuters, 12/7).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.