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Health Briefing – Elisa Morales

Hablamos: A Holistic Discussion About How We Die

April 19, 2016
Cannon House Office Building – Room 122
11:15 am – 12:30 pm
Moderated by CHCI-PepsiCo Foundation Nutritional Graduate Fellow Elisa Morales
Click here to download your copy of the white paper

When a patient receives a diagnosis, treatment options fall under two main categories: curative care, treatment aimed at curing a disease, and palliative care, which focuses on symptom management. In regards to terminal illness, curative care provides quantity of days, where palliative care focuses on quality of days. Why is health care biased in favor of promoting curative care?

The Issue: The United States has benefited from advancements in science and evolutions in medical equipment, which have contributed to extended life expectancies. The current health care paradigm focuses on disease driven curative treatments, and is less patient-focused. This raises serious ethical concerns about a patient’s end of life preferences and experience. Americans report that they would prefer to die at home, however less than 20 percent do. The majority (over 50 percent) of American deaths occur in an acute hospital, followed by 30 percent in a nursing facility.

The discussion surrounding palliative end of life care also includes economic concerns. Medicare Trustees forecast that by 2030, the Hospital Insurance portion of Medicare Part A will become insolvent. While we are the beneficiaries of medical innovations, this does not translate to providing patient options. A health care system that heavily promotes curative treatments carries costs implications that may not be congruent with person-centered care.

Conversations and policies about end of life care have increased. This briefing will enhance those conversations by including implications for Latino populations.


Dr. Nneka Ifejika - MD, MPH, Associate Professor of Neurology, The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston
Cozzie King - Senior Manager of Access Programs and Staff Liaison on the Diversity Advisory Council, National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization

The 2016 CHCI Capitol Hill Policy Briefing Series is the culmination of CHCI’s premier, nine-month Graduate Fellowship Program.