In a recent article in The New England Journal of Medicine, they suggested offering to discuss “overall prognosis,” doctorspeak for probable life expectancy and the likelihood of death, with patients who don’t have terminal illnesses. The researchers favor broaching the subject with anyone who has a life expectancy of less than 10 years or has reached age 85.
“Advanced age itself is the greatest predictor of poor prognosis,” Dr. Smith told me in an interview.
By age 85, the article points out, the average remaining life expectancy for Americans is six years. An 85-year-old has a 75 percent chance of living another three years, but only a one in four chance of surviving for 10. Which category a particular old person falls into has much to do with the medical problems they have, or don’t have, and with their ability to function.
When the odds are that they have only a few remaining years, should doctors discuss that with them?