AMA Journal of Ethics®

Illuminating the art of medicine

Journal of Ethics Header

AMA Journal of Ethics®

Illuminating the art of medicine

Virtual Mentor. May 2014, Volume 16, Number 5.

Ethics Poll

Are You Ready To Be an Older Patient?

Do you have an advance directive or have you appointed someone to make medical decisions for you if you become unable to do so?
Yes.
No.

Do you think a person's age is an acceptable basis for determining whether he or she can receive a scarce (e.g., human organ) resource or expensive (e.g., hip replacement) intervention?
Yes.
No.
Don‘t know.

Advance directives are legal instruments that document a person’s wishes about life-sustaining treatment (living will), choice of a surrogate decision maker in case the person is no longer able to make decisions (durable power of attorney for health care), or both. Which of the following do you think is the main reason why advance directives do not always provide the end-of-life decision-making guidance they were intended to provide?
People don’t want to think about being unable to make decisions for themselves, so they either don’t execute an advance directive, or they do it poorly.
Most people would rather leave treatment decisions to physicians.
Most people lack confidence that a family member or other surrogate could make the decision the he or she would make if able to decide.
People prepare advance directives at one point in life and their situation changes so much that the advance directive doesn’t offer guidance.
Physicians and hospitals disregard advance directives because they are afraid of being sued if they withhold any treatment from a patient.
Appointed surrogate decision makers are reluctant to accept the burden of making life-or-death decisions for someone else.
All of the above.
None of the above.

Read two ethical commentaries about advance directives in the May issue of Virtual Mentor.

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Poll results reflect the opinions of visitors to the site who voluntarily answer the poll questions. Those visitors do not represent a random sample of Virtual Mentor readers. The viewpoints expressed on this site are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the AMA.