Why “Living Wills” Are Not Working Well

nancyvalko

Nancy Valko, 20 October, 2021

In a stunning October 8, 2021 article titled “What’s Wrong With Advance Care Planning?” in the prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association, three prominent supporters of “living wills” and other advance care documents admit that after 30 years of the promotion of such advance care plan (ACP) documents…

Why “Living Wills” Are Not Working Well

Drs. R. Sean Morrison, Diane E Meier, and Robert M. Arnold are prominent doctors and ethicists at prestigious institutions who have long promoted the advance care documents that are asked about when people enter hospitals, nursing homes, long care facilities, etc.

ACPs were promoted as essential to document a person’s healthcare wishes like Do Not Resuscitate orders and forgoing interventions like feeding tubes and ventilators in the event that the person is unable to speak for himself or herself. Many such documents also designate a trusted friend or relative to assist in the potential future decision-making process.

All adults have been encouraged to make such documents regardless of their health status because it was assumed that such ACPs would lead to higher quality care at the end of life.

But, as the authors now admit: “The inability of ACP to achieve its desired outcomes represents the gap between hypothetical scenarios and the decision-making process in clinical practice settings.” (Emphasis added)

After 52 years of experience working in ICUs, oncology (cancer), dialysis, hospice and home health as well as caring for relatives and friends, I wholeheartedly agree with the authors that:

“Treatment choices near the end of life are not simple, consistent, logical, linear, or predictable but are complex, uncertain, emotionally laden, and fluid. Patients’ preferences are rarely static and are influenced by age, physical and cognitive function, culture, family preferences, clinician advice, financial resources, and perceived caregiver burden (eg, need to provide personal care, time off from work, emotional strain, out-of-pocket or noncovered medical costs), which change over time.” (Emphasis added)

WHAT DOES WORK?

Read the article in full HERE

2 responses to “Why “Living Wills” Are Not Working Well”

  1. I find this interesting and as you know I have always had concerns as they have become too much of a process

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