HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Concordia University School of Law

Tuesday, August 2, 2005

Palliative Care and Income

Today's New York TImes reports on a new study published in the Journal of Palliative Medicine about the availability of palliative care in the United States.  According to the New York Times review of the study,

People whose net worth is over $70,000, the median in the United States, are 30 percent less likely than poorer people to feel pain at the end of their lives, a difference that persists even when controlling for age and severity of illness, a new study shows.

The findings, which appear in the August issue of The Journal of Palliative Medicine, used information on more than 2,600 adults over 70 who died from 1993 to 1998. The researchers interviewed proxies, usually surviving spouses, to gather information about pain, depression, delirium and difficulties in breathing or eating at life's end.

Wealth was a strong predictor of how many different types of discomfort an older adult suffered, with those whose net worth was over $70,000 having a 9 percent lower risk of experiencing multiple symptoms. . . . .

The precise reasons that more affluent people suffer less are not known, but the authors speculate that richer people may be more demanding of better care, have access to care beyond what insurance provides, have more social supports and end their lives in settings with high-quality care.

Perhaps extra wealth should allow you to buy designer shoes, a nicer car, or a larger house with a pool, but pain relief at the end of life??  We need to disconnect patient income level from quality of health care and soon!  [bm]

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