No one wants to die, but like taxes, it is inevitable. It's nice to know that our town is the best in the country for it.

It's a good thing. Really.

I know we don't want to talk about it, but it is comforting to know that if you have a loved one who is dying, Grand Rapids ranks highest among 300 cities in the nation in terms of hospice care, hospital deaths and number of physicians seen by a patient in their last year. Those were some of the seven factors weighed in the study, which was published in the Washington Post.

Two other Michigan cities made the top ten. Petoskey at number eight, and St. Joseph at number ten.

The topic seems strange to rate, as the article notes, but it goes on to say the disparities are too great to ignore.

People are accustomed to ranking areas of the country based on availability of high-quality arts, universities, restaurants, parks and recreation and health-care quality overall. But we can also rank areas based on how they treat us at an important moment of life: when it’s coming to an end.


It turns out not all areas are created equal. Critical questions abound. For example, why do 71 percent of those who die in Ogden, Utah, receive hospice care, while only 31 percent do in Manhattan? Why is the rate of deaths in intensive care units in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, almost four times that of Los Angeles? Why do only 12 percent of individuals in Sun City, Ariz., die in a hospital, while 30 percent do in McAllen, Texas?

They go on to say that hospice care is in demand, but very under utilized. It's one area where GR ranked high.

A variety of factors probably contribute to our findings. Hospice, which for 35 years has provided team-based care, usually at home, to those nearing the end of life and remains enormously successful and popular, is underutilized. Most people enroll in hospice fewer than 20 days before death, despite a Medicare benefit that allows patients to stay for up to six months. Hospice enrollment has been shown to be highly dependent on the type of doctor that you see. In fact, one study among cancer patients with poor prognoses showed that physician characteristics (specialty, experience with practicing in an inpatient setting, experience at hospitals, etc.) mattered much more than patient characteristics (age, gender, race, etc.) in determining whether patients enrolled in hospice. For example, oncologists and doctors practicing at nonprofit hospitals were far more likely than other doctors to recommend hospice.

Best Places to Die

Grand Rapids, Mich.

Appleton, Wis.

Sarasota, Fla.

Ogden, Utah

Dubuque, Iowa

Asheville, N.C.

Cedar Rapids, Iowa

Petoskey, Mich.

Green Bay, Wis.

St. Joseph, Mich.

Worst Places to Die

Las Vegas


Stockton, Calif.

East Long Island



McAllen, Tex.



St. Petersburg, Fla.


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