“Do No Harm” = Excessive End-of-Life Care.

Does investing huge amounts of money in end-of-life care make for a healthier country? No.

Actually, it can make everything worse.

In my recent post about the draw backs of medical advances, I discussed Katy Butler‘s piece, “What Broke My Father’s Heart,” where Butler uses her family’s story to illustrate healthcare trends.

“Thanks to advanced medical technologies,” writes Butler, “elderly people now survive repeated health crises that once killed them, and so the ‘oldest old’ have become the nation’s most rapidly growing age group.”

They’ve also become the most expensive age group. Extending the lives of the elderly isn’t just hurting families who want their loved ones to die with dignity, it could explain why healthcare in the U.S. is so expensive.

You can’t cure death, but the U.S. is willing to go broke trying.

As Dr. Amy Tuteur, a former clinical instructor at Harvard Medical School, writes on her blog, U.S. healthcare spending only starts to outstrip the per capita spending of other Western European countries after the age of 60. In other words, until a patient turns 60, the U.S. spends roughly the same amount caring for their citizens as other countries with comparable standards of care.

All of that extra spending does not mean an increase in life expectancy for the general population. Once again, death is incurable.

As Dr. Tuteur concludes: “The discrepancy between American healthcare expenditure and life expectancy does not reflect any fault in the quality of American healthcare. Rather it reflects a philosophical distinction between the US and other first-world nations. We are willing to pay, and pay dearly, for false hope, while they are not.”

Maybe if “rationing” could be re-coined as “redirecting funds to somewhere they will actually be beneficial,” it would be possible for these statistics to change how care is delivered.

Further Reading:

National Geographic, “The Cost of Care.”

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “US health care costs for the aged are sky-high.”

Agency for Health Research and Quality, “The High Concentration of U.S. Health Care Expenditures.”


4 thoughts on ““Do No Harm” = Excessive End-of-Life Care.

  1. Shocking stats on how US health care dollars are spent! I hadn’t seen those numbers before.

    If only rationing had not become such a dirty word, and we weren’t so sure death is something that should be avoided at all costs.

  2. Pingback: “Do No Harm” = Excessive End-of-Life Care. | HealthcareLiterate

  3. Pingback: It’s Probably Best to Lose Big Anyway . . . « The Human Side of Hospitals.

  4. Pingback: Jumping on the Bandwagon. « The Human Side of Hospitals.

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