How to talk about hospice care

About once a year, a patient or family member will “jump up and just walk out of the room when I mention hospice,” says David Casarett, MD, chief medical officer of the University of Pennsylvania Health System’s hospice program.

“They will say: ‘We came to Penn for the best possible treatment. You were supposed to save Dad’s life, and now you’re giving up on him. How dare you do that to my father!’ ”

Even though such harsh reactions may be the exception, Dr. Casarett says, they are enough to make many doctors uneasy about bringing up hospice — a program that offers at-home nursing care, pain and symptom relief, spiritual counseling and other services but typically requires patients to forgo disease-directed treatments that aim to extend survival time.

My latest feature article. Read the whole shebang.