Assessing Advance Care Planning: Examining Autonomous Selections in an Advance Directive.

Abstract

We examined the management of completed advance directives including why participants completed a document, what procedures and values they chose, with whom they held end-of-life conversations, and where they stored their document. Participants elected to complete a SurveyMonkey survey that was made available to individuals who wrote an advance directive through TexasLivingWill.org; 491 individuals elected to fill out the survey, aged 19 to 94 years. The survey asked multiple questions about why participants completed an advance directive, where they would store it, and with whom they had conversations about their end-of-life wishes. A list of procedures and values allowed participants to indicate what they refused or requested in their advance directive. Advance directives are most often completed to allow patients to prepare and control the healthcare they wish to receive when dying. One-half to two-thirds of individuals refuse common end-of-life medical procedures, and the rest request the procedures. We found a correlation between the choice to refuse or request a procedure and the age of the participant. Participants reported that their end-of-life conversations most often occurred with their spouse. Respondents often reported that their advance directive was stored with their physician and power of attorney for healthcare, conversations with those individuals rarely happened. Advance directives document patients' requests for and refusals of end-of-life care. Physicians and surrogates need to be better educated so that the documents are part of a meaningful conversation with the patient. Because patients' choices change over their lifespan, these documents need to be revisited regularly and not completed as a onetime event.

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