FRIDAY, Oct. 29 (HealthDay News) -- More than half of the
surrogate decision makers for incapacitated or critically ill
patients want to have full control over life-support choices and
not share or yield that power to doctors, finds a new study.
It included 230 surrogate decision makers for incapacitated
adult patients dependent on mechanical ventilation who had about a
50 percent chance of dying during hospitalization. The decision
makers completed two hypothetical situations regarding treatment
choices for their loved ones, including one about antibiotic
choices during treatment and another on whether to withdraw life
support when there was "no hope for recovery."
The study found that 55 percent of the decision makers wanted to
be in full control of "value-laden" decisions, such as whether and
when to withdraw life support during treatment. Another 40 percent
wanted to share such decisions with physicians, and only 5 percent
wanted doctors to assume full responsibility.
Trust in the physicians overseeing their loved one's care was a
significant factor influencing the extent to which decision makers
wanted to retain control over life-support decisions, said the
University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine researchers.
They also found that men and Catholics were less likely to want
to cede their decision-making authority.
"This report suggests that many surrogates may prefer more [control] for value-laden decisions in ICUs than previously thought," study author Dr. Douglas B. White, an associate professor and director of the Program on Ethics and Decision Making in Critical Illness at the University of Pittsburgh, said in an American Thoracic Society news release.
The results indicate the need for a distinction "between
physicians sharing their opinion with surrogates and physicians
having final authority over those decisions," he added.
The study was published online Oct. 29 in advance of print in
American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care
The U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality has more
end-of-life treatment decisions.