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End-of-life care planning and cancer patients

When a person has been diagnosed with cancer, there are many things it can be important for them to think about and plan for when it comes to the care they receive for their condition. One is, if the cancer ends up being fatal, what will happen with their care in the last stages of their life.

There can be many important decisions to make when it comes to end-of-life care, including decisions regarding what treatments should and should not be given. These decisions can touch on issues that can have major impacts for a cancer patient and their family.

Sometimes, when the time comes for these decisions to be made, a person with a terminal form of cancer is no longer in a mental state where they have the capacity to make such decisions. Cancer patients can prepare for this possibility by using advanced directives and other end-of-life care planning tactics to help ensure their wishes regarding end-of-life care are known to their family, their medical care providers and the individuals who will make decisions on their behalf in the event of incapacity.

A recent study looked at to what extent cancer patients are turning to end-of-life care planning. Based on data regarding the cancer patients the study looked at, the study found that, in 2012, around 81 percent of the patients had at least one type of advanced planning in place when it comes to end-of-life care.

Thus, almost one-fifth of the patients had completed no such planning. This raises a concern that there may be many cancer patients out there who have not yet taken steps to make sure their wishes are known if incapacity were to strike by the time end-of-life care decisions come about.

Another concern the study raises is that many cancer patients may not have as comprehensive of an end-of-life care plan as would be ideal. The study found that, while the prevalence of having a power of attorney designation increased among cancer patients between 2000 and 2012, no significant changes occurred over this time in the prevalence of cancer patients having end-of-life care discussions or living wills. An incomplete end-of-life care plan can run the risk of not properly conveying a person's wishes regarding end-of-life care.

Attorneys can assist cancer patients with setting up comprehensive end-of-life care plans aimed at clearly and accurately conveying their wishes.

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