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A tough discussion

When healthcare providers talk with dying patients about end-of-life issues, it doesn’t cause the patient distress. Instead, such discussions actually improve their quality of life and help their loved ones cope, say researchers at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. They discovered that patients who had these talks weren’t more depressed, worried or sad than those who didn’t broach the difficult topic. In fact, those who engaged in frank talks were more likely to enroll in hospice programs earlier and opt for comfort measures instead of aggressive, life-extending therapies. Aggressive therapies, which can cause side effects and prevent patients from communicating with loved ones, were linked to a worse quality of life for the patient and a tougher bereavement period for loved ones.