The Voice Is As Mighty As the Pen: Integrating Conversations into Advance Care Planning

Journal of Bioethical Inquiry 15 (2):185-191 (2018)
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Advance care planning allows patients to articulate preferences for their medical treatment, lifestyle, and surrogate decision-makers in order to anticipate and mitigate their potential loss of decision-making capacity. Written advance directives are often emphasized in this regard. While these directives contain important information, there are several barriers to consider: veracity and accuracy of surrogate decision-makers in making choices consistent with the substituted judgement standard, state-to-state variability in regulations, literacy issues, lack of access to legal resources, lack of understanding of medical options, and cultural disparities. Given these issues, it is vital to increase the use of patient and healthcare provider conversations as an advance care planning tool and to increase integration of such discourse into advance care planning policy as adjuncts and complements to written advance directives. This paper reviews current legislation about written advance directives and dissects how documentation of spoken interactions might be integrated and considered. We discuss specific institutional policy changes required to facilitate implementation. Finally, we explore the ethical issues surrounding the increased usage and recognition of clinician–patient conversations in advance care planning.



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