Advance directives affecting medical treatment choices.
Advance directives theoretically enhance individual autonomy and facilitate treatment decision making at the end of life. There is little empirical evidence to support this, however. Based on a national postal survey of 2172 randomly selected medical practitioners (response rate 73%), this paper examines the effect advance medical directives have on (a) treatment prescribing for terminally ill people and (b) the degree of difficulty practitioners experience in making treatment choices. A hypothetical patient with Alzheimer's disease and an acute life-threatening illness was presented with and without an advance directive. With a directive, respondents were more uniform in their choice of treatment, with 86% choosing as the patient had requested. Difficulty with decision making was also less with the directive, 31% vs 45% with no directive. The data indicate that advance directives do affect practitioners' treatment choices in favor of patient wishes and reduce the difficulty practitioners may experience in making them.
Waddell, C; Clarnette, RM; Smith, M; Oldham, L
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