December 22nd, 2004 - Open Knowledge
Dec. 22nd, 2004
Terminal Patients Don't Hang on Until After Holidays
By Liz Szabo
12/22/04 10:10 AM PT
Researchers singled out the deaths of more than 300,000 cancer patients, because deaths from cancer are usually more predictable and less sudden than those from heart attacks, strokes or other ailments. There was no increase in overall mortality after Christmas.
Most doctors and nurses who treat people dying of cancer have noticed a striking phenomenon: frail patients who manage to postpone their deaths to get through a holiday, birthday or special event.
A handful of scientific studies over the years have supported that notion. Studies have found that deaths among Jewish patients rose after Passover, that deaths among elderly Christians increased after Christmas and that deaths among Chinese-American women peaked after a Harvest Moon Festival.
A new study analyzing the records of 1.3 million people, however, found no relationship between date of death and three major milestones: Christmas, Thanksgiving and patients' birthdays.
Researchers singled out the deaths of more than 300,000 cancer patients, because deaths from cancer are usually more predictable and less sudden than those from heart attacks, strokes or other ailments, according to the study. It is published in today's Journal of the American Medical Association.
The rate of death from cancer was the same throughout the year, the study shows.
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