Katie Couric's Notebook: End of Life

It's a topic that no one wants to think about, much less talk about. What type of care do we want when we're dying... and when do extraordinary measures no longer make sense?

A recent report by the Dartmouth Atlas of Health Care found that for elderly patients with cancer, the answer may depend more on their location than on their own wishes. In Mason City, Iowa, for instance, just 7 percent of patients died in the hospital, compared to almost 50 percent in Manhattan.

According to the report, that's because certain doctors and hospitals favor aggressive treatment for terminal patients, while others encourage at-home hospice care. Studies have found that most people would prefer to die at home... and that palliative care can even help prolong life.

So don't put off that awkward conversation. The more we know, the better we can advocate for ourselves and our loved ones -- whether that means fighting to the end or letting go.

That's a page from my notebook.

I'm Katie Couric, CBS News.


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