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Black people more likely than whites to spend with death looming
April 26th, 2011
12:03 AM ET

Black people more likely than whites to spend with death looming

Imagine you’re in the hospital with cancer. Would you rather spend everything you have to potentially live longer, or just forgo the costly medical treatment?

Your answer to that question might be influenced by your race.

A study published Tuesday in the journal Cancer finds that 80% of African Americans were willing to spend all their resources to extend life, but for white people the number is just 54%. Other minority groups landed between those two groups, with 69% of Hispanics and 72% of Asians saying they were willing to spend everything on extending life.

Differences in religious belief can be subtle, but significant to the findings.

When asked how much longer they think they have to live, patients picked one of these four answers: less than five years, more than five years, “I don’t know,” and “In God’s hands.”

Those who answered “In God’s hands” are perhaps the most religious, the study author said, and this group was also by far the most likely to exhaust finances on life-prolonging treatment.

However, even within this group of religious individuals willing to spend more on treatment – blacks were still more likely than whites to spend.

The study authors cite research suggesting that African Americans have a culture “of overcoming and struggling,” and are therefore more willing “to exhaust personal financial resources to extend life.”

Besides race, other factors affected whether individuals were willing to spend everything on potentially life-extending health care.

For example, those who are married, those who have multiple dependents, those who are older, or those who believe they have less than five years to live anyway were all less likely to spend on potentially life-extending treatments for themselves.

The researchers hope this information will be used by doctors to better understand patients during discussions about end-of-life care.

The study used patients with colorectal and lung cancers from the National Cancer Institute’s Can-CORS, a database tracking the outcomes of cancer treatments.


soundoff (91 Responses)
  1. MannyHM

    I believe it's very important that patients and relatives be properly informed on the limitations of medicine and the interventions provided. There should be an independent source of information that is bias free, accurate, and devoid of any conflict of interest for patients to go to. Setting aside race, some people overestimate what medicine can do and underestimate the suffering involved in prolonging lives.

    April 26, 2011 at 15:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Dakwon

    I feel like this article is just showing that a group of indivauls
    who want to longer and to tell the truth i dont understand
    why you people want to make this about race their just saying
    that black people really care about their lives oh and im black and
    i would love to have a have chance to live longer , so lets just try not to make this personal
    and some you guys need to really calm down or just dont look at the news

    April 26, 2011 at 16:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Colin

    It is telling tha those who "believe in god" are the most reluctant to die. This is actually another small missing piece for me in understanding the psychology of the god believers. It is pretty clear that they don't REALLY believe, but are so terrified of their own deaths that they will do anything to extend it, including convince themselves that they will somehow survive their deaths and live happilly ever after.

    This is so helpful to me in understanding why the most frightened people in life tend to be the most religious.

    Teddy bears for adults.

    April 26, 2011 at 22:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Ron

    It's "in gods hands" but then they spend all their money desperately holding onto their ebbing life. You can't fix stupid.

    April 27, 2011 at 08:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. eric

    It's funny that the people who claim "It's in God's hands" would spend the most to keep it out of God's hands. Ok, maybe not funny, tragic may be a better word.

    April 27, 2011 at 17:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Puffy

    @ B.I.G.-Chill out, man, you're already dead.

    April 27, 2011 at 17:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Apeasant

    Anyone else noticed that comment on religious people willing to spend the most money to save themselves? "In God's Hands"? I'm as spiritual as the next guy, but pointing out hypocrisy is just good personal practice.

    April 28, 2011 at 00:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Average Joe

    Is this to say that White Americans don't have a culture of overcoming and struggling? Not all white people are rich you know.

    April 28, 2011 at 14:20 | Report abuse | Reply
    • B.I.G

      yes that is true, but white people have "white privlege" giving them more privlege than people of color.

      May 4, 2011 at 16:04 | Report abuse |
  9. joseph1193

    Where is the reference/citation to the study? This is pretty important information. It's like saying, "A new study finds that CNN's journalists are too lazy to do research," without providing the evidence to back the claim.

    May 8, 2015 at 21:02 | Report abuse | Reply
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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.