Physician Understanding of Patient Resuscitation Preferences

Insights and Clinical Implications

Published in: Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, v. 48, no. 5, suppl., May 2000, p. S44-S51

Posted on RAND.org on January 01, 2000

by Neil S. Wenger, Russell S. Phillips, Joan M. Teno, Robert K. Oye, Neal V. Dawson, Honghu H. Liu, Robert M. Califf, Peter Layde, Rosemarie Hakim, Joanne Lynn

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OBJECTIVE: To describe physician understanding of patient preferences concerning cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and to assess the relationship of physician understanding of patient preferences with do not resuscitate (DNR) orders and in-hospital CPR. DESIGN: The authors evaluated physician understanding of patient CPR preference and the association of patient characteristics and physician-patient communication with physician understanding of patient CPR preferences. Among patients preferring to forego CPR, the authors compared attempted resuscitations and time to receive a DNR order between patients whose preference was understood or misunderstood by their physician. PATIENTS/SETTING: Seriously ill hospitalized adult patients were enrolled in the Study to Understand Prognoses and Preferences for the Outcomes of Treatments. GENERAL RESULTS: Physicians understood 86% of patient preferences for CPR, but only 46% of patient preferences to forego CPR. Younger patient age, higher physician-estimated quality of life, and higher physician prediction of 6-month survival were independently associated with both physician understanding when a patient preferred to receive CPR and physician misunderstanding when a patient preferred to forego CPR. Physicians who spoke with patients about resuscitation and had longer physician-patient relationships understood patients' preferences to forego CPR more often. Patients whose physicians understood their preference to forego CPR more often received DNR orders, received them earlier, and were significantly less likely to undergo resuscitation. CONCLUSIONS: Physicians often misunderstand seriously ill, hospitalized patients' resuscitation preferences, especially preferences to forego CPR. Factors associated with misunderstanding suggest that physicians infer patients' preferences without asking the patient. Patients who prefer to forego CPR but whose wishes are not understood by their physician may receive unwanted treatment

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