- LONDON (Reuters) - Most doctors
are too optimistic in predicting how long dying patients have to live,
and this has a negative effect on the care they receive in their final
days, American researchers said Friday.
- A study by scientists at the University of Chicago Medical
Center in Illinois showed that of the survival estimates for 486 terminally
ill patients given by 343 doctors, only 20 percent were accurate.
- Sixty-three percent of the predictions overestimated
the time patients had left, and in some cases doctors predicted patients
had five times longer to live than proved to be the case.
- ``Doctors are inaccurate in their prognoses for terminally
ill patients and the error is systematically optimistic,'' Professor Nicholas
Christakis and Dr Elizabeth Lamont said in a report in The British Medical
- The researchers added that doctors who knew their patients
best were more likely to get it wrong.
- ``Although some error is unavoidable...the type of systematic
bias toward optimism that we have found in doctors' objective prognostic
assessments may be adversely affecting patient care,'' the researchers
- Instead of receiving three months of hospice care, which
is considered to be the ideal, many patients received only one month's
care because of the optimistic prognosis.
- Patients who thought they had longer to live also opted
for more aggressive treatment instead of palliative care, the report said.
- The researchers suggested doctors should get second opinions
from colleagues, particularly if they know a patient well, before giving
- ``Reliable prognostic information is a key determinant
in both doctors' and patients' decision making,'' they added.
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