Oct 15, 2009 8:55 AM by Associated Press

Studies: Some nursing home elderly get futile care

Two new federally funded studies reveal a surprising number of frail, elderly Americans in nursing homes receive futile care at the end of their lives.

One found that putting nursing home residents with failing kidneys on dialysis didn't improve their quality of life. The other showed many with advanced dementia will die within six months and perhaps should be given hospice care instead of aggressive treatment.

Medical experts say caregivers and families should consider making the feeble elderly who are near death comfortable rather than treating them as if a cure were possible.

End-of-life care became a divisive issue in the national health care reform debate after one proposal included Medicare reimbursement for doctors who consult with patients on end-of-life counseling. Critics called the counseling a step toward euthanasia. The Obama administration denied that claim, yet has signaled the Medicare benefit will be dropped.

The new studies are published in the New England Journal of Medicine.


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