Personal Autonomy

Respecting End-of-Life Treatment Preferences - Article

ABSTRACT: Most patients eventually must face the process of planning for their future medical care. However, few Americans have a living will or a durable power of attorney for health care. Although advance directives provide a legal basis for physicians to carry out treatment using a health care proxy or a living will, they also should reflect the patient's values and preferences. Family physicians are in a position to integrate medical knowledge, individual values, and cultural influences into end-of-life care. Family physicians can best respect the autonomy of patients by allowing the patient and family to prospectively identify relevant health care preferences, by sustaining an ongoing discussion about end-of-life preferences, and by abiding by the decisions their patients have made.

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