Sings of life slipping away can be used to provide dignity and peace to patients. “Previous studies in end-of-life care have focused on physicians prognosticating better. However, according to David Hui, M.D., assistant professor, Palliative Care and Rehabilitation Medicine, research on how to tell if a patient has entered the final days of life has been minimal. Knowing with a high degree of confidence that death is imminent could have significant implications for clinical practice. It may also help families and caregivers make more informed decisions”In the past, studies trying to understand the signs associated with impending death were conducted in people who were recognized as dying, so there’s a potential bias built into this model. With our study, we observed a list of signs in patients from the time they were admitted to the palliative care unit. They were observed systematically, twice a day, without knowing if the patient would die or be discharged,” says Hui, the study’s corresponding author.
The study shows that very simple observations by doctors and care teams can help make a very important diagnosis and may inform both the patient and the family so that they can make difficult personal decisions, he explained.
For the prospective study, Hui and colleagues at MD Anderson and Barretos Cancer Hospital (an MD Anderson Sister Institution in Brazil) observed 357 cancer patients admitted to the respective palliative care units, of which 57 percent ultimately died.
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