The author reports on six months' experience of obtaining advance directives from patients for care in a family practice. Patients were questioned about their preferences for comfort or prolonging life and then were asked to delegate a substitute decision maker. Of 20 patients, all who responded chose comfort over prolonging life. Delegated substitute decision makers included spouses, children, and professionals or friends. In this population, patients overwhelmingly favoured comfort over prolonging life in the event that they might be irreversibly disabled, and they tended to choose spouses or other first-degree relatives as substitute decision makers.
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When a child is hospitalized, the parents find themselves in an unfamiliar environment and their parental role changes. They are in a stressful and often anxiety-filled situation and it may be difficult for them to participate in decisions. The purpose of this study was to examine the extent to which parents participate in decisions during the course of events when their child is hospitalized. Thirty-five parents of 24 children (aged 5 months to 18 years) were followed by mobile observation during their child's hospitalization in a paediatric department in Sweden. Three researchers analysed field notes in three steps, using manifest and latent coding. In step 1, 119 situations that included a decision process were identified. In step 2, the situations were assessed according to a five-level scale concerning how the parents' wishes, desires or values had been respected. In step 3, each situation was scrutinized with respect to factors influencing the extent of the parents' participation. The results showed that parents have varying ability to be involved in decision making. Professionals need to communicate more openly with them in order to identify and satisfy their needs because some parents are unwilling or incapable of expressing them.
The issue of artificial feeding for patients with dementia who refuse feeding by hand is a wrenching emotional problem that can cloud clinical judgement. It is helpful to apply an analytic approach to decision making. There are five steps: gathering a comprehensive clinical database; defining the goal of treatment; knowing the treatment options available, their burdens and potential benefits; understanding the law; and defining the moral framework in which care is being given. Such an approach can be used to formulate a plan of treatment in the best interests of incompetent elderly patients who cannot speak for themselves.
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