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Patients' preferences concerning medical information and surrogacy: results of a prospective study in a French emergency department

Patients' preferences concerning medical information and surrogacy: results of a prospective study in a French emergency department

Intensive Care Medicine 26(1): 52-56

To study the wishes of a sample of French patients about medical information and surrogacy, at a time when the French Ministry of Health is supporting increased patient autonomy. A cohort of competent patients with non-critical illnesses or injuries completed an intention-to-act questionnaire on the amount of medical information they would want to receive should they be hospitalized or in a life-threatening situation. The percentage of patients who would want to have a surrogate if they were in a coma was determined, as well as the identity of the preferred surrogate. The subgroup of patients who were married or living with a partner was evaluated separately to determine how often the spouse/partner was the preferred surrogate. Associations were looked for between patients' wishes and age, sex, educational level, occupation, hierarchical order in the family, and level of confidence in medicine. The emergency room of a teaching hospital in the Paris area (France). Of the 1089 patients included in the study, 5. 5 % reported that they would not want any information, 25.3 % that they would want to participate actively in all decisions about their care, and 87.3 % that they would want to be fully informed if they were in a life-threatening situation. Slightly less than one-third of the patients (29.6 %) believed they would not want a surrogate if they developed a coma. Among the patients living with a spouse/partner, 40.6 % (229/561) indicated they would want their spouse/partner to be their surrogate. A significant correlation was observed between wanting more information and wanting a surrogate. Younger patients with a higher educational level were significantly more likely to predict a desire for information and for a surrogate than the other patients. Our patients expressed a strong desire to receive extensive information should they become seriously ill, and two-thirds of them reported they would want a surrogate. However, only 40.6 % of the patients living with a spouse/partner would want their spouse/partner to be their surrogate. These data suggest that the time has probably come to propose a nation-wide public hearing on medical information and surrogacy in France.

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Accession: 046934467

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PMID: 10663280

DOI: 10.1007/s001340050011

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