Surrogate health care decision making is often a challenge for everyone involved. In the case of incapacitated patients, family members, nurses, health care providers, and other members of the health care team often grapple with determining the most appropriate clinical course of action. For these difficult patient scenarios, the expertise of clinical ethics consultants is sought to assist with complex health care decision making. Clinical ethics consultation is designed to provide a more objective “outside” opinion and offer advice to the patient, family, and entire care team to support and guide decisions. Nurses are well positioned to initiate assistance from Clinical Ethics Consult Services in support of patient and family advocacy. This article presents a case analysis based on the Stakeholder, Facts, Norms, and Options Framework to analyze the best interest course of action for Mr K., a patient diagnosed with abdominal pain due to end-stage liver cirrhosis and who lacks decisional capacity in regard to his own treatment decision making. The case analysis highlights specific examples of how nurses can provide information, facilitate discussion, and otherwise support patients and families to achieve best interest outcomes.
BACKGROUND: Facilitating patient conversion to hospice at end of life is a prominent clinical concern. Enrollment in outpatient palliative care services is often assumed to encourage seamless transition to hospice care, but this has not been demonstrated. Moreover, decisions to convert from palliative care to hospice are generally treated as dichotomous, thus hampering our ability to understand decision processes.
OBJECTIVE: To examine medical decision-making among patients who are prospectively evaluating whether to convert from palliative care to hospice.
DESIGN: Qualitative case study, using in-depth interviews and constant comparative method.
SETTING/PATIENTS: Terminally ill patients currently enrolled in outpatient palliative care services (N = 26) and their caregivers (N = 16), selected purposely for maximum variation in condition and personal background.
MEASUREMENTS: Themes identified in qualitative in-depth interviews.
RESULTS: Patients rarely refused hospice outright but more often postponed using a "soft no," in which they neither accepted nor overtly refused hospice. Justifications patients and caregivers offered for why hospice was not needed (yet) appeared in these themes: (1) not seeing the value added of hospice, (2) assuming the timing is premature, and (3) relying on extensive health-related support networks that justify or endorse continuation of active care.
CONCLUSIONS: Despite assumptions to the contrary, benefits associated with utilization of outpatient palliative care services have the potential to incentivize the delay of hospice in some cases. Clinical interactions with outpatient palliative care patients should consider the influence of these broad social support systems when discussing hospice options.
BACKGROUND: Metastatic breast cancer (MBC) is generally incurable, but patients can survive longer than those with other cancer types. Treatment strategies for MBC are complex, and it is difficult to establish evidence of efficacy since symptoms and patient backgrounds vary markedly. Some patients struggle to decide where to receive end-of-life care, despite palliative care intervention, and some die in unexpected places. With the aim of ascertaining the best way to intervene on behalf of patients with end-stage breast cancer, we retrospectively examined interventions provided by our palliative care team. We investigated factors influencing the decision-making processes of patients with MBC regarding end-of-life care locations and where patients actually died.
METHODS: Clinical records of 44 patients with MBC, all Japanese women, who received palliative care interventions at our hospital, were retrospectively investigated. We examined factors, such as age, possibly impacting decision-making processes regarding the final location and actual place of death.
RESULTS: Thirty-five (80%) patients were able to decide where to receive end-of-life care, while the others were not. For these 35 patients, desired locations were the palliative care unit (77%), home palliative care (14%), and the hospital (9%). Age and recurrence-free survival (RFS) were factors influencing patients' decision-making processes (P = .030 and .044, respectively). Of the 35 patients, 25 (71%) were able to receive end-of-life care at their desired locations.
CONCLUSIONS: Young patients and those with short RFS struggled with making decisions regarding where to receive end-of-life care. Such patients might benefit from prompt introduction of advanced care planning.
BACKGROUND/AIMS: Despite increased demand for cancer patient's to make their own decisions based on an adequate understanding of what is involved in chemotherapy, the primary signing agent and the reasons for surrogate signing have not been appropriately evaluated.
METHODS: The ethics committee of the palliative medicine subgroup of the Korean Cancer Study Group designed this study and solid cancer patients to whom chemotherapy was offered, from seven institutions, were evaluated. The details relating to surrogate's signing of chemotherapy consent were evaluated. Then, we analyzed the factors associated with surrogate's signing according to patient's demographics and characteristics related to chemotherapy consent.
RESULTS: Surrogate's signing was noted for 20.7% (84/405) of patient and over half of surrogate signings were performed by the patients' son or daughter (60.7%). Two main reasons for surrogate signing were patient's incapacity (34.5%) and taking over authorization from patients (33.3%). The factors associated with more frequent surrogate's signing were absence of spouse, lower education level, outpatient, and when residents played a role as a principle provider of chemotherapy consent.
CONCLUSION: This study suggests the lack of patients' own decision making for chemotherapy in some situations. This ethical dilemma must be considered for adequately informed decision making for chemotherapy while ensuring the patients' autonomy is maintained.
OBJECTIVE: Irish legislation on Advance Healthcare Directives (Assisted Decision Making Capacity Act 2015, ADMC) proposes to change the basis of decision making from acting in the patient's best interests to following the expressed will and intentions of the patient. Refusal of life-saving care can occur, without sound reasons. The implications for care in life-threatening emergencies have not been explored among clinicians.
DESIGN: An anonymous questionnaire survey of Advanced Paramedics (AP) covering awareness of the legislation, attitudes to and experience of refusal of care and potential actions in emergency scenarios now and if the legislation were in force. The scenarios covered end-of-life and deliberate self-harm situations potentially requiring resuscitation.
SETTING: All 482 graduates of the Advanced Paramedic Training Programme were invited to take part.
RESULTS: Overall, 85/389 (21.9%) valid contacts responded, with demographic characteristics similar to the overall population. Attitudes ranged from highly positive to highly negative in relation to the potential impact of the legislation on professional and operational responsibilities. Respondents described marked changes in whether they would offer resuscitation if the ADMC were in place.
CONCLUSION: Irish legislation which changes the traditional basis of medical practice away from the best interests of the patient may affect the resuscitation practices of Advanced Paramedics in life-threatening situations. It has significant implications for medical education, professional practice and clinician-patient interactions. This legislation and similar planned legislation may have implications for other EU jurisdictions.
More research to examine factors contributing to health-care disparities at the end of life is greatly needed. This article outlines a failed attempt to quantify some of the motivators in medical decision-making for African American families faced with a decision to pursue or forego a percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy in a loved one at the end of life. It explores the complexities of spirituality, history, culture, and death in our patient population in Charleston, South Carolina, where health-care disparities are well-documented, and distrust has deep historical roots. It outlines the need for qualitative research, where the defining role of the researcher is to practice the paramount palliative skill of listening.
BACKGROUND: Hospice is underutilized, due to both lack of initiation from patients and late referral from clinicians. Prior research has suggested the reasons for underuse are multifactorial, including clinician and patient lack of understanding, misperceptions about the nature of hospice care, and poor communication during end-of-life discussions about hospice care. Little is known about the decisional needs of patients and families engaging in hospice decision-making.
OBJECTIVES: To understand the decisional needs of patients and families making decisions about hospice care.
METHODS: We conducted focus groups with family caregivers and hospice providers and one-on-one interviews with patients considering or enrolled in hospice care. We identified participants through purposeful and snowball sampling methods. All interviews were transcribed verbatim and analyzed using a grounded theory approach.
RESULTS: Four patients, 32 family caregivers, and 27 hospice providers participated in the study. Four main themes around decisional needs emerged from the interviews and focus groups: (1) What is hospice care?; (2) Why might hospice care be helpful?; (3) Where is hospice care provided?; and (4) How is hospice care paid for?
DISCUSSION: Hospice may not be the right treatment choice for all with terminal illness. Our study highlights where patients' and families' understanding could be enhanced to assure that they have the opportunity to benefit from hospice, if they so desire.
Depuis la loi Claeys-Leonetti, les patients peuvent demander aux équipes médicales de pratiquer la sédation profonde et continue maintenue jusqu'au décès dans un cadre spécifique. Pour pouvoir la mettre en place, des staffs ont lieu où la délibération est un temps d'échange qui doit permettre de trouver un consensus afin d'avoir une décision finale validée et reconnue par tous. La délibération qui aboutit à une prise de décision consensuelle n'a pas toujours lieu ou ne répond pas toujours aux demandes des soignants. Notre questionnement et nos recherches ont mené notre réflexion sur "Pourquoi la décision en équipe interdisciplinaire amène des incompréhensions dans l'équipe ?". Pour essayer de répondre à cette question, nous avons cherché les liens entre "délibération" et "décision consensuelle" d'une part et d'autre part les liens entre la "décision consensuelle" et le "premier vécu des soignants quant à la S.P.C.".
Background: Advance care planning (ACP) is a process that enables individuals to describe, in advance, the kind of health care they would want in the future, and has been shown to reduce hospital-based interventions at the end of life. Our goal was to describe the current state of ACP in a home-based primary care program for frail homebound older people in Vancouver, Canada. We did this by identifying four key elements that should be essential to ACP in this program: frailty stage, documentation of substitute decision-makers, and decision-making with regard to both resuscitation (i.e., do not resuscitate (DNR)) and hospitalization (i.e., do not hospitalize (DNH)). While these elements are an important part of the ACP process, they are often excluded from common practice.
Methods: This was a cross-sectional, observational study of data abstracted from 200 randomly selected patient electronic medical records between July 1 and September 30, 2017. We describe the association between demographic characteristics, comorbidities, and four key elements of ACP documentation and decision-making as documented in the clinical record using bivariate comparison, a logistic regression model and multiple logistic regression analysis.
Results: In 73% (n=146) of the patient records, there was no explicit documentation of frailty stage. Sixty-four per cent had documentation of a substitute decision-maker. Of those who had their preferences documented, 90.6% (n=144/159) indicated a preference for DNR, and 23.6% (n=29/123) indicated a preference for DNH. In multiple regression modeling, a diagnosis of dementia and older age were associated with documentation of a DNR preference, adjusted odds ratio (AOR) = 4.79 (95% CI 1.37, 16.71) and AOR = 1.14 (95% CI 1.05, 1.24), respectively. Older age, male sex, and English identified as the main language spoken were associated with a DNH preference. AOR = 1.17 (95% CI 1.06, 1.28), AOR = 4.19 (95% CI 1.41, 12.42), and AOR = 3.42 (95% CI 1.14, 10.20), respectively.
Conclusions: Clinician documentation of some elements of ACP, such as identification of a substitute decision-maker and resuscitation status, have been widely adopted, while other elements that should be considered essential components of ACP, such as frailty staging and preferences around hospitalization, are infrequent and provide an opportunity for practice improvement initiatives. The significant association between language and ACP decisions suggests an important role for supporting cross-cultural fluency in the ACP process.
Purpose: This study evaluated the decision-making capacity of persons with mild and moderate dementia on end-of-life care when using visual aids. A secondary purpose was to learn whether the judges naive to the experimental conditions would rate participants' decisional abilities as better when augmented by visual aids, thereby validating the behavioral changes due to the use of these external support.
Method: Twenty older adults with mild and moderate dementia demonstrated Understanding, Expressing a Choice, Reasoning, and Appreciation of 2 medical vignettes under 2 counterbalanced conditions: verbal alone or verbal with visual aids. Transcripts were analyzed and scored to measure decisional skills. Twelve judges rated participants' decisional abilities using a 7-point Likert scale.
Results: Participants demonstrated significantly better overall decisional capacity in Understanding, Reasoning, and Appreciation when supported by visual aids during the decision-making process. No significant differences between conditions were found in Expressing a Choice, the decisional skill Logical Sequence under Reasoning, and Acknowledgment under Appreciation. Overall, the judges' ratings validated these outcomes; the judges' ratings reflected greater agreement in the visual condition than in the verbal condition.
Conclusions: Findings indicated that visual aids (a) improved the decision-making capacity of individuals with dementia in comprehending medical information, employing supportive reasons, and relating this information to his or her own situation and (b) contain the potential for judges who majored or are majoring in speech-language pathology to reach a stronger consensus when determining the decision-making capacity of individuals with dementia.
OBJECTIVE: Surrogate decision-makers play an increasingly important role in the lives of older adults who have lost their ability to make decisions. Currently, there is a lack of evidence to support family surrogates in making a variety of decisions. Additionally, a greater understanding of family caregivers' experiences and perspectives toward making surrogate decisions is needed.
METHODS: This study employed a qualitative systematic review and thematic synthesis of the research evidence using the methodologies of the Joanna Briggs Institute (2014) and Thomas and Harden (2008).
RESULTS: Decisions were classified per three main types: intensive care treatment, end-of-life treatment, and placement. Six themes were identified concerning surrogates' experiences: struggle and reluctance, seeking reassurance, communication with healthcare professionals, family support, older adults' wishes, and negative impact.
CONCLUSION: Family surrogates often lack adequate preparation and education regarding decision-making. Quality communication between surrogates and healthcare providers helps reduce the anxiety and guilt experienced when making surrogate decisions. Further research is required to elucidate these experiences with more cultural and racial nuances.
PRACTICE IMPLICATIONS: This review informs healthcare providers' awareness of the challenges faced by surrogates and fosters improved surrogate decision-making experiences.
INTRODUCTION: In Canada, deceased organ donation provides over 80% of transplanted organs. At the time of death, families, friends or others assume responsibility as substitute decision-makers (SDMs) to consent to organ donation. Despite their central role in this process, little is known about what barriers, enablers and beliefs influence decision-making among SDMs. This study aims to explore the experiences and perspectives of SDMs involved in making decisions around the withdrawal of life-sustaining therapies, end-of-life care and deceased organ donation.
METHODS AND ANALYSIS: SDMs of 60 patients admitted to intensive care units will be enrolled for this study. Ten hospitals across five provinces in Canada in a prospective multicentre qualitative cohort study. We will conduct semistructured telephone interviews in English or French with SDMs between 6 and 8 weeks after the patient's death. Our sampling frame will stratify SDMs into three groups: SDMs who were not approached for organ donation; SDMs who were approached and consented to donate and SDMs who were approached but did not consent to donate. We will use two complementary theoretical frameworks-the Common-Sense Self-Regulation Model and the Theoretical Domains Framework- to inform our interview guide. Interview data will be analysed using deductive directed content analysis and inductive thematic analysis.
ETHICS AND DISSEMINATION: This study has been approved by the Centre Hospitalier de l'Université de Montréal Research Ethics Board. The findings from this study will help identify key factors affecting substitute decision-making in deceased organ donation, reasons for non-consent and barriers to achieve congruency between SDM and patient wishes. Ultimately, these data will contribute to the development and evaluation of tools and training for healthcare providers to support SDMs in making decisions about organ donation.
BACKGROUND: There is a dearth of research focusing on identifying the social complexities impacting on oncology and palliative care (PC), and no study has explored how the health-care system in Nigeria or other African contexts may be influencing utilization of these services.
AIM: This study explored how social complexities and the organization of health-care influenced the decision-making process for the utilization of oncology and PC in a Nigerian hospital.
METHODS: This qualitative study used an interpretive descriptive design. Data were collected using semistructured interview guides with 40 participants, comprising health-care professionals, patients, and their families. Thematic analysis was conducted to generate and analyze patterns within the data.
FINDINGS: Three themes were identified: dysfunctional structural organization of the health-care delivery system, service-users' economic status, and the influence of social networks. The interrelationship between the themes result in patients and their family members decisions either to present late to the hospital, miss their clinical appointments, or not to seek oncological health care and PC.
CONCLUSION: This article offers insights into the role of the health-care system, as organized currently in Nigeria, as "autoinhibitory" and not adequately prepared to address the increasing burden of cancer. We therefore argue that there is a need to restructure the Nigerian health-care system to better meet the needs of patients with cancer and their families as failure to do so will strengthen the existing inequalities, discourage usage, and increase mortality.
Objective: To examine how clinical decisions are made at the end of life for infants born with specific fatal and disabling conditions in NICUs in Jordan from the perspectives of neonatal health care providers.
Design: A cross-sectional survey of neonatal nurses and physicians.
Setting: Twenty-four NICUs in Jordan.
Participants: Participants included 213 nurses and 75 physicians who provided direct care for infants in NICUs.
Methods: Using the EURONIC questionnaire, we asked participants to recall the last experiences of end-of-life decision making in which they were involved. The participants described factors and outcomes related to those experiences, and we used descriptive and inferential statistics to examine these factors.
Results: In 83% of the recalled situations, the physicians in charge of the infants’ care or who were on duty were the primary decision makers. Parents, nurses, ethics committees, and NICU heads were less involved. The infants’ primary diagnoses were significantly associated with the nature of decisions regarding end-of-life care (p < .001). Age, importance of religion, having their own children, and involvement in research activities were factors that significantly predicted nurses’ perceived levels of involvement in decision making ( 2 = 23.140, p < .001).
Conclusion: Our results suggest the need to improve clinical approaches to decision making regarding end-of-life care for infants in NICUs in Jordan to be more family focused and team based. This process should include parents, physicians, neonatal nurses, and ethics committees.
Patients who suffer from an acute stroke often cannot make informed medical decisions and may not have advance directives. The rapidity of its onset often means that the burden of whether to pursue placement in a nursing home and/or life-prolonging loved ones. This Fast Fact reviews clinical factors and tools that could help in prognostication and medical decision making for stroke patients.
BACKGROUND: Moral distress and burnout related to end-of-life decisions in neonates is common in neonatologists and nurses working in neonatal intensive care units. Attention to their emotional burden and psychological support in research is lacking.
AIM: To evaluate perceived psychological support in relation to end-of-life decisions of neonatologists and nurses working in Flemish neonatal intensive care units and to analyse whether or not this support is sufficient.
DESIGN/PARTICIPANTS: A self-administered questionnaire was sent to all neonatologists and neonatal nurses of all eight Flemish neonatal intensive care units (Belgium) in May 2017. The response rate was 63% (52/83) for neonatologists and 46% (250/527) for nurses. Respondents indicated their level of agreement (5-point Likert-type scale) with seven statements regarding psychological support.
RESULTS: About 70% of neonatologists and nurses reported experiencing more stress than normal when confronted with an end-of-life decision; 86% of neonatologists feel supported by their colleagues when they make end-of-life decisions, 45% of nurses feel that the treating physician listens to their opinion when end-of-life decisions are made. About 60% of both neonatologists and nurses would like more psychological support offered by their department when confronted with end-of-life decisions, and 41% of neonatologists and 50% of nurses stated they did not have enough psychological support from their department when a patient died. Demographic groups did not differ in terms of perceived lack of sufficient support.
CONCLUSION: Even though neonatal intensive care unit colleagues generally support each other in difficult end-of-life decisions, the psychological support provided by their department is currently not sufficient. Professional ad hoc counselling or standard debriefings could substantially improve this perceived lack of support.
Background: To avoid aggressive treatments at the end-of-life and to provide palliative care (PC), physicians need to terminate futile anti-cancer treatments and define the palliative goal of the treatment in time. This single center study assesses the practices used to make the decision that leads to treatment with a palliative goal, i.e., the PC decision and its effect on anti-cancer treatments at the end of life.
Material and methods: Patients with a cancer diagnosis treated in tertiary hospital during 1st January 2013 – 31st December 2014 and deceased by the end of 2014 were identified in the hospital database (N = 2737). Of these patients, 992 were randomly selected for this study. The PC decision was screened from patient records, i.e., termination of cancer-specific treatments and a focus on symptom-centered PC.
Results: The PC decision was defined in 82% of the patients during the last year of life (49% >30 days and 33% =30 days before death, 18% with no decision). The median time from the decision to death was 46 days. Systemic cancer therapy was given during the last month of life in 1%, 36% and 38% (p < .001) and radiotherapy 22%, 40% and 31% (p = .03) cases, respectively; referral to a PC unit was made in 62%, 22% and 11%, respectively (p < .001). In logistic regression analyses younger age, shorter duration of the disease trajectory and type of cancer (e.g., breast cancer) were associated with a lack or late timing of the PC decision.
Conclusion: The decision to initiate a palliative goal for the treatment was frequently made for cancer patients but occurred late for every third patient. Younger age and certain cancer types were associated with late PC decisions, thus leading to anti-cancer treatments continuing until close to the death with low access to a PC unit.
AIM: The purpose of the present study was to clarify the current state of awareness-raising activities to educate residents about decision-making regarding end-of-life care using a nationwide survey of municipalities in Japan.
METHODS: A cross-sectional questionnaire-based survey of all municipalities in Japan (n = 1741) was carried out. We asked one representative from each municipality whether or not there were ongoing municipality-led activities to raise awareness and educate the community about end-of-life care decisions. A logistic regression analysis was carried out to examine the regional characteristics associated with running municipality-led awareness-raising activities. Additionally, we investigated the creation and contents of awareness-raising materials targeting residents.
RESULTS: The questionnaire was completed by 1145 municipalities (valid response rate 65.8%). We found that 39.4% of the municipalities surveyed were currently running or planning activities about end-of-life care. Municipalities with active public awareness campaigns had a significantly higher financial capability index than inactive municipalities. Awareness-raising materials targeting residents were created in 134 of the municipalities. The most frequently mentioned components of the materials were the importance of articulating one's intentions with regard to end-of-life care services in advance, sharing those feelings with the family and revisiting them repeatedly (73.9%), and the explanation of home healthcare and long-term care services (47.7%).
CONCLUSIONS: The present findings suggest that cities with tight budgets are unable to carry out activities to raise awareness and educate residents about end-of-life care. Thus, it is important to pursue the implementation of further national-level initiatives and funding support for municipalities.
BACKGROUND: Advance care planning (ACP) is recommended as part of the management of patients with heart failure (HF).
AIMS: To develop and validate ACP support tools for patients with HF.
METHODS: An ACP support tool was developed based on a systematic literature review. A multi-center, prospective before and after study was conducted to evaluate the usefulness of the support tool. This study included 21 patients with HF, 11 patients formed the control group and 10 patients were part of the intervention group who received ACP from medical staff using the ACP support tools developed for this study. Participants of the study were surveyed about their experience of ACP using a 6-point Likert scale.
FINDINGS: All of the healthcare professionals (n=9) involved in the study found the ACP tool useful and about 90% of patients considered the support tool useful. The score for 'the patient did not feel anxious about the future after receiving ACP discussion' was significantly higher (3.5 [3.0, 4.0] vs 2.0 [1.0, 3.0]; P=0.04) in the intervention group that used the ACP tool.
CONCLUSION: ACP support tools are useful to manage patients with HF and could enable effective ACP without increasing patient anxiety.
With the growing number of individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) reaching the age of consent, health-care providers must be prepared to bridge gaps in their knowledge of ASD. This is especially true for clinicians who may have to determine if a person with ASD has the capacity to engage in end-of-life decision making, complete advance directives, or act as a surrogate decision maker for someone else. This paper provides an overview of the unique characteristics of autism as related to the communication, cognitive processing, and the capability to participate in advance care planning and, when acting as a surrogate decision maker, to consider the values and preferences of others. In addition, we examine the roles and responsibilities of clinician as facilitator of shared health-care decision making communication with the individual who has autism. Consideration is given to determining capacity, planning for atypical responses, the impact or lack of influence of the framing effect, and strategies for presenting information. Finally, we will offer health-care providers information and examples for adapting their existing end-of-life decision-making tools and conversation guides to meet the communication needs of persons with ASD.