Doctors Significantly Overestimate How Long Patients Have to Live
Review of research finds that doctors almost double the amount of time patients really have left
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 14, 2016 5:10 PM CDT
File photo of a radiologist and a patient.   (AP Photo/Denis Farrell)

(Newser) – If you're given a terminal prognosis by your doctor and you ask how much longer you have left, chances are, you'll get an overestimate of your remaining days on Earth, a new overview of research finds. Doctors and nurses apparently dread having to give patients bad news, the Times reports, and the study finds that doctors and nurses give estimates that end up being nearly double the amount of time patients actually have left. The analysis looked at 42 studies involving more than 12,000 prognoses and found that, on average, patients were told they had 44 days left to live when, in actuality, they only lived for 25 more days, the Mirror reports.

Researchers found that some doctors were off by as much as 93 days (the largest overestimate) or 86 days (the largest underestimate); some only had a 23% accuracy rate. "Doctors are likely to put a positive spin on when they give information to patients," and that's problematic when patients aren't given enough time for any end-of-life planning, a lead researcher explains. Experienced doctors were found to be at just as much risk of incorrect prognoses as younger doctors, the Independent reports. (Take a look inside the real world of end-of-life care.)