Introduction: Between 2013 and 2019, Illinois limited cannabis access to certified patients enrolled in the Illinois Medical Cannabis Program (IMCP). In 2016, the state instituted a fast-track pathway for terminal patients. The benefits of medicinal cannabis (MC) have clear implications for patients near end-of-life (EOL). However, little is known about how terminal patients engage medical cannabis relative to supportive care.
Methods: Anonymous cross-sectional survey data were collected from 342 terminal patients who were already enrolled in (n = 19) or planning to enroll (n = 323) in hospice for EOL care. Logistic regression models compare patients in the sample on hospice planning vs. hospice enrollment, use of palliative care vs. hospice care, and use standard care vs non-hospice palliative care.
Results: In our sample, cancer patients (OR = 0.21 (0.11), p < .01), and those who used the fast-track application into the IMCP (OR = 0.11 (0.06), p < .001) were less likely to be enrolled in hospice. Compared to patients in palliative care, hospice patients were less likely to report cancer as their qualifying condition (OR = 0.16 (0.11), p < .01), or entered the IMCP via the fast-track (OR = 0.23 (0.15), p < .05).
Discussion: Given low hospice enrollment in a fairly large EOL sample, cannabis use may operate as an alternative to supportive forms of care like hospice and palliation. Clinicians should initiate conversations about cannabis use with their patients while also engaging EOL Care planning discussions as an essential part of the general care plan.
Keywords: end-of-life; hospice; medical cannabis; palliative care; symptom management.