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Many terminal patients in Florida not getting their dying wishes

A recent study indicates that while many senior citizens with terminal illnesses would prefer to enjoy their last days in hospices or in the comfort of their own homes with those they love, an alarming number of them spend their last days in the hospital. Florida residents may be interested in learning that researchers at the Dartmouth Atlas Group uncovered an interesting fact: Geography may play an important role as far as what happens to people during their final days is concerned.

According to a doctor from the Dartmouth Atlas Project, care often reflects the practice of the region where the care is delivered, rather than the actual wishes of the patients. For instance, in St. Petersburg, 45 percent of senior advanced cancer patients spent their last months in an intensive care unit as compared to only 15 percent of similar patients in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and just 10 percent in Bismarck, North Dakota. Conversely, about 31 percent of senior terminal cancer patients in California died in a hospital as compared to Florida, where the figure was 19 percent.

Unfortunately, many patients do not formalize their final wishes within the context of the correct estate planning documents, including living wills, documents choosing health care surrogates and do-not-resuscitate orders. Many people may not be aware such options exist; therefore, they may never approach the subject with doctors or their family members.

Those recently diagnosed with terminal cancer may benefit from speaking with an estate planning attorney, who may be able to help them prepare documents that indicate their final wishes to their families as well as any medical personnel. In addition, a lawyer may also help prepare other documents such as trusts.

Source: Tampa Bay Times, "For many dying elderly in bay area, aggressive cancer treatment despite their wish", Irene Maher, September 08, 2013

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