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Americans consider end-of-life costs

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A growing minority of Americans believe that a patient’s desire to live justifies the money spent to keep the patient alive.

Researchers at the Pew Research Center found when they polled 1,994 U.S. adults by telephone in March that 66 percent believe that patients who have incurable diseases, depend on life support, or suffer from incurable pain have a moral right to choose to end their lives.

About 57 percent said they would tell doctors to stop treatment if they had a serious disease with no hope of improvement, and about half of the people who said they would ask to stop treatment said they’d also choose to stop treatment if they were dependent on someone else for care.

But, if patients want to continue to try to live, then one-third of Americans polled said they think medical professionals should do everything possible to help those patients live, regardless of the expense.

The percentage who think doctors should do everything possible to keep patients who want to live alive has increased from 9 percent in 2005, and from 16 percent in 1990.

Among participants 75 or older, 22 percent said they had no written end-of-life plans and had not discussed their wishes with others.

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