• Provide more paid help at home, including in PACE and hospice.

  • Require accounting of the aggregate costs and benefits of costly interventions in realistically representative populations.

  • Develop a regional or national review process that can limit coverage for particular interventions to particular kinds of patients or can keep a particular treatment from being covered at all.

  • Monitor effects of high-cost interventions, especially effects on availability of aide care and psychosocial services.

  • Involve HRSA in addressing the concerns of the population needing end-of-life care, including cancer. This would bring to bear the skills and attention of professional educators, manpower experts, health services delivery managers, and innovators and evaluators.

  • Tie Medicare payments to quality (e.g., the upcoming effort to tie managed care payments to heart failure performance standards).

  • Build culture of quality improvement; pay for the work.

  • Consider the role of routine autopsy.


The quality, reliability, and comprehensiveness of end-of-life care are important to cancer patients and their families. Some of the current shortcomings arise from financing and regulations; others, from habit patterns. Enduring reforms must be guided by descriptive and evaluative data, which are not available. This shortcoming should be corrected quickly. We need a decade of vigorous innovation and evaluation, learning how to improve policies. As we settle upon desirable changes, we will also need to forge the political will for reform.


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Beemstrober PM, de Koning HJ, Birnie E, et al. Advanced prostate cancer: course, care and cost complications. Prostate 1999; 40:97–104.

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Brooks CH. A comparative analysis of Medicare home care cost savings for the terminally ill. Home Health Care Services Quarterly 1989a; 10:79–96.

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