Doctors do not die differently than anyone else, despite their knowledge of medical treatment and outcomes. They are likely to spend as much time in hospitals in the last months of life as we do, says a new research.
“The overall narrative that doctors die differently is false,” said the study’s senior author Stacy Fischer, associate professor at the University of Colorado School of Medicine in the US.
The researchers found that physicians use more hospice care, spend more time in intensive care units (ICUs) and just as much time in hospitals when compared to the rest of the population.
“We found that doctors used more hospice care – about two days on average — but when you look at the length of stay in hospital in the last months of life, there is no difference between them and the rest of population,” Fischer noted.
The findings appeared in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.
In 2011, Ken Murray, a retired family physician, wrote an essay entitled “How Doctors Die,” saying doctors were more likely to die at home with fewer end-of-life medical interventions.
The essay swiftly went viral and was supported by hypothetical surveys of physicians regarding their wishes for care at the end of life and later by smaller preliminary studies.
In this new study, the researchers wanted to see if doctors with their knowledge of medical treatment and outcomes truly did die differently than others.
They examined data from 9,947 deceased physicians and a random sample of 192,006 non-physicians between 2008 and 2010.
In the last six months and one month of life, the proportion of physicians and non-physicians having at least one ICU stay was essentially equivalent.
The mean number of days spent in the ICU in the last six months and one month of life was slighter greater for doctors.
The study also showed that 46.4 percent of physicians and 43.2 percent of non-physicians had enrolled in hospice care for the last six months of life.
Doctors used hospice an average of 2.4 days longer than others, the study found.