A study was conducted from November 13, 2008, through July 28, 2009, in which 26 patients were assessed at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida. Patients with metastatic cancer received either standard care or a Registered Nurse Practitioner-directed intervention that included discussions of the benefits of hospice, discussions on living wills and advanced directives along with an assessment of Quality of Life Issues.  Improvements were noted in emotional and mental Quality of Life assessment in the intervention group that were not seen in the control group. Patients found it useful to have the living will and Health Care Power of Attorney documents offered as part of the consultation with the Nurse Practitioner. In short, the study found a consultation that explains the benefits of hospice and addresses advanced directives early in the course of metastatic cancer patients’ treatment, is well received by the patients and their relatives and leads to measurable improvement in the patient’s emotional and mental quality of life.

The study also demonstrates that oncology clinics are not doing enough to help improve their patients’ quality of life because they are so focused on treating the cancer. As a result, there are missed opportunities to provide additional support and many patients end up enrolling in hospice care much too late and do not have advance directives completed in a timely fashion.

At the American Medical Associations’ 2006 annual meeting in Chicago, the organization voted to increase patient and physician education surrounding advance directives. An AMA board member spoke of the importance of talking with loved ones about end of life decisions and using advance directives to make one’s wishes known. The AMA expressed an interest in building on lessons learned from Terri Schiavo (the Florida case in which a woman languished for years in a coma as her parents and husband battled in Court as to whether she should be removed from life support).  The Mayo Clinic study merely confirms the importance of discussing these issues and the direct impact they have upon the quality of life.

If you are interested in discussing a health care power of attorney and advanced directive, please do not hesitate to contact The Law Offices of Lee A. Drizin, Chtd. at 798-4955.

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