Author(s): Lipkin KM, Lipkin KM
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Abstract BACKGROUND: Physician-initiated advance care planning is desirable, effective, and routinely indicated for competent adult patients, but doctors are often reluctant to begin the necessary conversations. OBJECTIVE: To determine whether patients are willing and able to designate a surrogate for medical decision making, when asked to do so as part of routine medical inquiry. DESIGN, PATIENTS, MEASUREMENTS: A survey asking patients to name a health care agent was designed and administered in the context of routine clinical care. Participants were drawn from a consecutive sample of 309 competent adult outpatients. Data were analyzed using ordinary descriptive statistics. RESULTS: Two hundred ninety-eight of 309 patients (response rate, 96\%) completed the survey and were willing and able to specify a proxy for health care. One third of married participants did not choose their spouse as proxy. CONCLUSIONS: Asking patients to identify a surrogate for medical decision making opens the door for ongoing individualized medical care planning in the context of ordinary patient-physician interaction. This approach is applicable to all competent adults. Documenting proxy choice protects a patient's wishes and preferences until more definitive planning is accomplished.
This article was published in J Gen Intern Med
and referenced in Advanced Practices in Nursing