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Clinical Crossroads | Clinician's Corner

An 86-Year-Old Woman With Cardiac Cachexia Contemplating the End of Her Life:  Review of Hospice Care

Jean S. Kutner, MD, MSPH, Discussant
JAMA. 2010;303(4):349-356. doi:10.1001/jama.2009.2015.
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Mrs H is an 86-year-old woman with progressive congestive heart failure and multiple chronic conditions who is experiencing worsening function and quality of life despite maximum medical therapies. She seeks advice regarding control over the circumstances of the end of her life, be it by suicide or under hospice care. Typical of US populations older than 65 years with multiple chronic health conditions and functional decline who are facing the end of life, Mrs H's concerns are particularly about quality of life, not being a burden on loved ones, and maintaining control. As she demonstrates, psychological, existential, and social factors, particularly fear of being a burden, are more common reasons for desiring hastened death than those related directly to physical symptoms. Hospice, which provides a multidisciplinary approach to care at the end of life, can assist Mrs H and her family in making decisions that are consistent with her goals.

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