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Snapshot: Death and Dying in California

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Publication Date: November 2006

Publisher(s): California HealthCare Foundation

Author(s): Judith Citko; Lake Research Partners

Topic: Health (Health services for the chronically ill)

Type: Brief

Coverage: California


Despite its inevitability, death is a difficult topic for many patients, families, and physicians to discuss openly. However, with more Americans getting older and the increase in prime-time media coverage of highly charged end-of-life issues, there is a growing awareness and discussion of the complex considerations involved. This report, featuring survey findings and the latest data available, examines changing attitudes about death and dying and potential trends through the lens of demographics, the cost and nature of end-of-life care, and cultural norms. Highlights include:

*Compared to 1989, twice as many Californians now die at home, and less than half die in hospitals; *Almost a quarter of the $282 billion spent on health care for Americans age 65 and older was for medical expenses in the last year of life; *Seventy percent of Californians believe there are some circumstances in which a patient should be allowed to die; *Although 83% believe it is somewhat or very important to have end-of-life wishes in writing, only 36% actually have a written document; and *While the vast majority of respondents (82%) familiar with hospice care view it positively, almost 30% have never heard of it. [BREAK]