The Massachusetts Expert Panel on End-of-Life Care defines hospice services as including “medical, social, emotional, and spiritual support tailored to the patient’s needs and wishes.” Hospice services are distinct from palliative care in several ways: first, coverage is generally limited to those with an expected life expectancy of six months or less; second, it includes support provided to family members and loved ones, including bereavement care.

The Panel’s 2010 report Patient-Centered Care and Human Mortality: The Urgency of Health System Reforms to Ensure Respect for Patient’ Wishes and Accountability for Excellence in Care addressed the need for reform around the issue of end-of-life care. Research conducted for the report indicated that while two-thirds of Massachusetts residents express a desire to die at home, fewer than a quarter do, while more than 70% die in hospitals or nursing homes. Although the Commonwealth has made a start in creating the Massachusetts on End-of-Life Care, establishing the Expert Panel, and developing this report, work remains to be done.

There is a need for equal access to palliative and hospice care services among all patient populations, especially those with known disparities in accessing end-of-life care. Previous research has shown lower use of hospice care in Black patients, and a recent study conducted at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute showed that Black patients with advanced cancer were less likely to have their wishes regarding end-of-life care honored than White patients. Additionally, not all MassHealth insurance plans cover hospice care.

For the Goals, Objectives and Strategies of the End of Life Care section please see pages 58-59 of the 2012 – 2016 Comprehensive Cancer Prevention and Control Plan for Massachusetts  pdf format of 2012-2016 Comprehensive Cancer Prev./Control Plan
file size 6MB doc format of                             2012–2016 Comprehensive Cancer Prev./Control Plan                file size 1MB.

This information is provided by the Comprehensive Cancer Prevention and Control Network.