For people with terminal cancer, having the option to die at home rather than in the hospital results in higher quality-of-life scores at life’s end—and may improve quality of life for caregivers too.
A study published October 10 in the Journal of Clinical Oncology found that when people died at home, their loved ones were less likely to develop post-traumatic stress disorder or prolonged grief disorder, a condition marked by intense, disabling grief that lasts longer than six months.
“Where someone dies has important implications for those they leave behind,” says lead author Alexi Wright, an HMS instructor in medicine at Dana–Farber Cancer Institute. Wright points out that while most cancer patients would prefer to die at home, that’s not always possible. More than one-third die in a hospital, and 8 percent die in intensive care.
Wright believes the frightening nature of aggressive lifesaving care, such as cardiopulmonary resuscitation and mechanical breathing devices, may come at a high cost. “Making the quality of life better for a patient with a terminal diagnosis is often more valuable,” she says, “than attempting to extend life at the cost of quality.”