NEW POLL: Americans Choose Quality Over Quantity at the End of Life, Crave Deeper Public Discussion of Care Options
Despite pitched rhetoric of health care debate, poll shows little difference of opinion across political affiliations
SEATTLE — A poll of registered voters in the Pacific Northwest released today by National Journal and The Regence Foundation finds that Washington and Oregon residents are considerably more open to end-of-life options than the overall American public. However, while the poll showed strong support for options like palliative care, respondents weren’t familiar with the term palliative care and were unsure how to access it.
The poll is the second in a three-part series called "Living Well at the End of Life: A National Conversation," which is dedicated to exploring Americans' attitudes and approaches toward end-of-life.
According to the poll, Washingtonians and Oregonians are more likely than the rest of the nation to believe that enhancing the quality of life for seriously ill patients is more important than extending it for as long as possible. When the same question was posed in February to Americans as a whole, 71% professed that belief, compared to 83% for Washington and 85% for Oregon. People in the Pacific Northwest are also more likely than other Americans to say the health care system spends too much money trying to extend the lives of seriously ill patients, as opposed believing the system has the responsibility to spend whatever it takes to extend life.
"The Northwest is the region of the country that has grappled most directly with the complex and emotional issues surrounding care for people at the end of life," said National Journal editorial director Ronald Brownstein. "And this survey shows that most people in these states are comfortable with an approach that emphasizes not just the duration, but also the quality, of life - though they share the concerns we've seen nationally about cost, information and control at this difficult and vulnerable juncture for families."
Washingtonians and Oregonians are also overwhelmingly supportive of local legislation that has created more opportunities for end-of-life care options, including the POLST physician directive on life sustaining care and the Death with Dignity Act allowing for physician-assisted suicide.
Support for palliative care options is even stronger, with nearly all Washington and Oregon voters saying it's important to have access to palliative care. However, even in states like Washington and Oregon where the dialogue about palliative care has been more extensive than arguably anywhere else in the country, questions remain. About half of respondents in both states said palliative care is "available, but only if you know where to look and who to ask."
For the past several years The Regence Foundation has been working to improve access to palliative care in the Northwest," said Peggy Maguire, Regence Foundation board president, "and the results from this survey confirm what we’ve believed all along – that Northwesterners are incredibly supportive of end-of-life care options and amazingly open to talking about them. As the poll shows, however, the real challenge lies with implementation and consistency in connecting patients with the information and care options they need at end-of-life.
The poll's results will be discussed in-depth today at a National Journal LIVE event in Seattle featuring Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and a panel of health policy experts. Watch live online at 8:00am Pacific/11:00am Eastern at http://www.nationaljournal.com/video.
The National Journal-Regence Foundation poll top-line results (PDF). Key survey findings include:
1. The public in Washington and Oregon have a considerably more progressive attitude towards end-of-life issues than the overall American public.
2. Despite more extensive conversations about end-of-life care in the Pacific Northwest, familiarity with the term "palliative care" is low. However, support for the concept is very strong.
3. Despite a strong preference for them, Pacific Northwesterners are not confident about access to palliative care options.
4. There is strong support in the Pacific Northwest for end-of-life policies that have already been implemented.
Note: This survey was conducted by FD among 600 registered voters each in Oregon and Washington. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.0% percent in 95 out of 100 cases in each state.
The Regence Foundation is the corporate foundation of Regence, the largest health insurer in the Northwest/Intermountain region and a nonprofit independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. A 501(c)3 grantmaking organization, the Foundation partners with organizations driving significant change in health care delivery and accessibility in Idaho, Oregon, Utah and Washington. Through its Sojourns™ program, the Foundation also supports organizations advancing quality palliative and end-of-life care. For more information visit www.RegenceFoundation.org or at www.twitter.com/RegenceGives.
Long regarded as the most trusted voice in the Beltway, National Journal is Washington's premier source of nonpartisan insight on politics and policy, conveyed with intelligence, depth, and speed. National Journal Group properties include National Journal, National Journal Daily, NationalJournal.com, The Hotline, The Almanac of American Politics, and Global Security Newswire.
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