How long and how well: Oncologists’ attitudes toward the relative value of life-prolonging v. quality of life-enhancing treatments
Headlines across the UK papers this week announced how doctors have advised patients with terminal cancer should not be given life-extending drugs, as the treatments give false hope and are too costly for the public purse. This study however considers physicians attitudes towards quantity versus quality of life in the US for terminal patients where unlike the UK there are no governing bodies to set limits to costs of treatments.
The study confirms doctors are more apt to recommend a more costly therapy to patients if it were determined to prolong the patient’s life. Using a survey of the decision-making process, authors were able obtain data to determine the relative importance oncologists place on quantity of life compared to quality of life in chemotherapy decisions. From this, they found a significant majority of respondents (71.8%) illustrated a greater value they placed on life-prolonging treatments rather than on quality-enhancing ones. The study recognizes that there are no adopted methods for physicians to analyze cost-effectiveness in this or any other scenario in the United States.