Americans Choose Quality Over Quantity at the End of Life
MAR 07, 2011A national poll released today by National Journal and The Regence Foundation finds that more than 70% of Americans believe enhancing the quality of life – not just extending the length of it – should be a priority at the end of life.
The poll – the first in a three-part series called "Living Well at the End of Life: A National Conversation" – shows overwhelming majorities also want a more open public dialogue about the issues and options surrounding end-of-life care, including palliative care, and that Americans believe such discussions should be fully covered by both Medicare and private insurance.
And at a time when much of the national conversation about end-of-life care has taken on the pitched rhetoric of a political battle, the poll shows notably little difference of opinion across political affiliations.
The poll's results will be discussed in-depth today at a National Journal LIVE event featuring Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and health policy experts.
"The issues and choices surrounding health care at the end of life have huge implications for our country, on the personal level, in the health care field, and for policy-makers," said Ronald Brownstein, Editorial Director of National Journal Group. "This poll makes it clear that while Americans are wrestling with these issues in their personal lives, the public conversation simply isn't keeping up. Americans want to learn more about options at the end of life, and it's time our national discussion shed less heat and more light.
Added Brownstein: "We also see from the results that, while Americans state a clear preference for options that make the end of life better, not just longer, a majority still believes the health care system should spend whatever it takes to extend life, and they worry about the possibility of diminished treatment. That tension, while not unexpected for such an intricate issue, shows how challenging it will be to craft public policies that balance all of the public's mixed emotions in this complex arena."
Nearly two-thirds of Americans have had personal or family experience with palliative care, end-of-life care, or hospice care, but only half of those respondents say they were prepared for the experience. Americans across all political affiliations prioritize quality of life at the end of life and desire a deeper conversation – both publicly and privately – about these complex issues.
"We do Americans a huge disservice by talking about end-of-life issues in a politicized way," said Kieren Porter, Regence Foundation board chair. "If there's one thing this first survey has shown us, it's that for most Americans this isn't a political issue at all – it's a personal one – and they want to have meaningful, thoughtful and well-informed conversations about it. Fostering those conversations should be a top priority going forward