Patients 'will pay more' to be pain-free

How much would you be willing to pay to extend your life by a year if you were sick? Not much, says a study done by researchers from the Lien Centre for Palliative Care (LCPC).

Older adults are willing to fork out only $1,587 - about $4.35 a day. However, they will happily pay six times that amount ($9,358) to be kept free from pain and double the sum ($3,712) to be able to die at home.

Patients with advanced cancer feel the same way, but were ready to pay more.

These were the maximum amounts of money researchers estimated participants were willing to pay after questioning them.

The study, which has been accepted for publication in the international Health Policy journal, surveyed 542 adults aged 50 and above, and 332 advanced-cancer patients.

It was done because past research showed that caregivers place more emphasis on life extension and will pay more for moderately life-extending treatments than patients; but it was not known if patients themselves or the public felt the same way, said Dr Eric Finkelstein, director of the LCPC, which led the study.

He noted that older adults' and patients' willingness to pay for an extra year of life is lower than what policymakers are willing to pay for healthcare schemes in other places.

He said: "This suggests that health-reform efforts should not overemphasise financing high-cost treatments that only moderately extend life."

Janice Tai

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 07, 2015, with the headline 'Patients 'will pay more' to be pain-free'. Print Edition | Subscribe