End-of-life wishes vary among racial and ethnic groups, and between genders, study finds

Many Arab Americans would prefer not to go to a nursing home as they near the end of their lives, while many African Americans are comfortable with nursing homes and hospitals. Many Hispanic people are strongly concerned about dying with dignity. And many white people don't want their families to take care of them, but they like members of other racial and ethnic groups want their families nearby as they live out their last days.

Those are some of the findings of a study of 73 focus group participants who were asked numerous questions about end-of-life care. The study, in the current issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, found sometimes divergent views in how the different groups view health care, spirituality, family, and dying.

"One of the most important findings in our study is that there are so many different points of view, it is important for health care providers to treat everyone as an individual," says lead author Sonia A. Duffy, Ph.D., R.N., research investigator with the Center for Practice Management and Outcomes Research at the Veterans Affairs Ann Arbor Healthcare System, and with the departments of Otolaryngology and Psychiatry at the University of Michigan Medical School.

"We should keep in mind that our country's medical system is based on Western values, and that those values may not translate to other cultures," Duffy says. "Deeply rooted cultural beliefs and values are difficult to influence."

The study also found differences between the points of view of the genders within the various groups. For example, Hispanic men in the study, in general, wanted little medical intervention at the end of life, while Hispanic women in the study tended to favor extensive medical intervention. The split was similar between African American men and women.

More than other groups, Hispanic men in the study said they prefer assisted suicide in some instances and would like to rename assisted suicide "ass

Contact: Katie Gazella
University of Michigan Health System

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