Fewer Blacks Use Hospice Care For Illnesses Besides Cancer

Armen Hareyan's picture

Blacks are less likely than whites to receive hospice care, inparticular for illnesses other than cancer, according to a recent studypublished in the Journal of Pain Symptom and Management, Reuters/MSNBC reports.


Blackshistorically have been less likely than whites to use hospice care, andthe new study found a "particularly obvious" racial gap among hospicepatients dying of diseases other than cancer, Reuters/MSNBC reports. For the study, researcher Kimberly Johnson of Duke Universityand colleagues examined more than 166,000 patients at the largest U.S.hospice provider. Between 1999 and 2003, the proportion of hospicepatients with illnesses other than cancer rose, regardless of race, thestudy found. However, the study found that blacks receiving hospicecare were one-third less likely than whites to have an illness otherthan cancer.

According to Reuters/MSNBC, hospicecare originally was developed for terminally ill cancer patients, butsince the 1990s many patients began to use the program for otherillnesses. 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 furtherstudies to determine why blacks are less likely than whites to usehospice care, particularly for illnesses other than cancer. "Targetedefforts to increase hospice use among African-Americans with noncancerdiagnoses may be important in reducing racial disparities in overallhospice use and improving the quality of care for dyingAfrican-Americans," according to the study (Reuters/MSNBC, 10/5).

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