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The Boston Globe

Health & wellness

Study says many patients enter hospice care too late

Slightly more patients with terminal cancer are getting hospice care during the end of their lives, but they are still entering hospice care too late — within days of death — finds a new national analysis of Medicare patients conducted by Dartmouth researchers. And many are still dying in hospitals, often hooked to ventilators in an intensive care unit, despite studies showing that most cancer patients prefer to die at home.

The percentage of end-stage cancer patients who died in the hospital decreased from 29 percent on average to 25 percent from 2003 to 2010, but there are huge variations among hospitals: In Massachusetts in 2010, about 13 percent of terminally ill cancer patients treated at North Shore Medical Center in Salem died there compared with 41 percent of those treated at MetroWest Medical Center in Framingham, according to the analysis released Wednesday from the Dartmouth Atlas Project.

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