Physician-facilitated designation of proxy decision-makers: Family physician perceptions

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Background: Among the challenges encountered during the care of patients at the end-of-life (EOL), eliciting preferences of patients with whom there is no ability to communicate is common and stressful for all those concerned and charged with patient care. Legal facilities available include patient delegation of proxy decision-makers (PDM) prior to communication incapacity. We sought to estimate family physician awareness and attitude with regard to these aspects of patient care. Methods: A telephone survey of family physicians in the Jerusalem, Israel, district using a standard questionnaire. Results: 74 family physicians responded to the survey. The response rate was 42% and the cooperation rate was 66%. Most of the respondents, (64%), reported knowing that the PDM delegation facility exists, though only 24% claimed to have suggested to their patients that they consider this option. Approximately three-quarters, (78%), treat patients with whom they discussed other aspects of severe disease, disability or EOL. None of the physicians working predominantly with religiously observant groups reported suggesting PDM delegation. Conclusions: There is an apparent gap between family physician knowledge and their performance to empower the persistence of patient autonomy, should communication ability cease. System-wide interventions to increase EOL communication skills, starting at medical school and henceforth, are necessary in order to promote better EOL care and meaningful resource use.




Lifshitz, G., Cohen, M. J., Shmilovitz, H., Brezis, M., Lahad, A., & Ben-Yehuda, A. (2016). Physician-facilitated designation of proxy decision-makers: Family physician perceptions. Israel Journal of Health Policy Research, 5(1).

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