Going Broke: Financial Concerns of Palliative Care Patients

Betty R. Ferrell, PhD, RN


September 19, 2017

"We Are Going Broke"

Max is a 48-year-old man being treated for stage IV lung cancer. A very shy and humble person, Max has been extremely grateful for the care he is receiving for his disease and knows he has been fortunate to participate in a clinical trial of immunotherapy. He has responded well—his tumor is shrinking, and early trial results indicate that a 2- to 3-year survival may be expected.

Over the past few weeks, Max has missed two treatments. The clinical staff are concerned, and somewhat irritated, because adherence to the regimen is critical. When he arrives at the clinic today, a nursing assistant who has become very close to Max and his elderly father (and primary caregiver) scolds him jokingly but tells him that he can't miss any appointments. Max quietly tells her that he may not be able to continue treatment because "this cancer is wiping out my family. We are going broke." The nursing assistant recognizes his distress, offers her support, and shares this information with the team.


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