Fewer Blacks Than Whites Use Hospice Care for Illnesses Besides Cancer, Study Finds
Blacks are less likely than whites to receive hospice care, in particular for illnesses other than cancer, according to a recent study published in the Journal of Pain Symptom and Management, Reuters/MSNBC reports.
Blacks historically have been less likely than whites to use hospice care, and the new study found a "particularly obvious" racial gap among hospice patients dying of diseases other than cancer, Reuters/MSNBC reports. For the study, researcher Kimberly Johnson of Duke University and colleagues examined more than 166,000 patients at the largest U.S. hospice provider. Between 1999 and 2003, the proportion of hospice patients with illnesses other than cancer rose, regardless of race, the study found. However, the study found that blacks receiving hospice care were one-third less likely than whites to have an illness other than cancer.
According to Reuters/MSNBC, hospice care originally was developed for terminally ill cancer patients, but since the 1990s many patients began to use the program for other illnesses. Researchers noted that many individuals view hospice care as "giving up" and that studies suggest blacks prefer more life-saving, aggressive treatment methods.
Researchers suggest further studies to determine why blacks are less likely than whites to use hospice care, particularly for illnesses other than cancer. "Targeted efforts to increase hospice use among African-Americans with noncancer diagnoses may be important in reducing racial disparities in overall hospice use and improving the quality of care for dying African-Americans," according to the study (Reuters/MSNBC, 10/5).
An abstract of the study is available online.