Cardiologists avoid end-of-life talk with patients, complicating death

Heart failure patients might be at a disadvantage when it comes to the end of their lives as clinicians struggle to communicate outcomes and options to them, the New York Times reports.

Cardiologists aren’t as well-versed in end-of-life talk as, say, oncologists, the Times wrote. Cancer patients account for half of all hospice deaths, and oncologists are used to having discussions about death, next steps and palliative care with their patients.

The same isn’t true for heart patients. Defibrillator shocks, health swings and related incidents hamper a heart failure patient’s quality of life as they near the end. Options as these individuals approach end of life often aren’t articulated clearly—or at all.

“Unfortunately, when you have patients with a chronic illness like heart failure, everyone thinks someone else will talk about it,” Lynne Warner Stevenson, MD, told the Times. “Too often, no one takes ownership of the last stage of the journey with the patient.”

The number of Americans with heart failure increased from 5.7 million in 2009 to 2012 to 6.5 million in 2011 to 2014, and more than 10 percent of citizens 80 years old and up suffer from the condition.

Read the full New York Times story here: