Surrogate Perspectives on a Patient Preference Predictor: Good Idea, But I Should Decide How It Is Used

AJOB Empirical Bioethics (forthcoming)
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Background: Current practice frequently fails to provide care consistent with the preferences of decisionally-incapacitated patients. It also imposes significant emotional burden on their surrogates. Algorithmic-based patient preference predictors (PPPs) have been proposed as a possible way to address these two concerns. While previous research found that patients strongly support the use of PPPs, the views of surrogates are unknown. The present study thus assessed the views of experienced surrogates regarding the possible use of PPPs as a means to help make treatment decisions for decisionally-incapacitated patients. Methods: This qualitative study used semi-structured interviews to determine the views of experienced surrogates [n=26] who were identified from two academic medical centers and two community hospitals. The primary outcomes were respondents’ overall level of support for the idea of using PPPs and the themes related to their views on how a PPP should be used, if at all, in practice. Results: Overall, 21 participants supported the idea of using PPPs. The remaining five indicated that they would not use a PPP because they made decisions based on the patient’s best interests, not based on substituted judgment. Major themes which emerged were that surrogates, not the patient’s preferences, should determine how treatment decisions are made, and concern that PPPs might be used to deny expensive care or be biased against minority groups. Conclusions: Surrogates, like patients, strongly support the idea of using PPPs to help make treatment decisions for decisionally-incapacitated patients. These findings provide support for developing a PPP and assessing it in practice. At the same time, patients and surrogates disagree over whose preferences should determine how treatment decisions are made, including whether to use a PPP. These findings reveal a fundamental disagreement regarding the guiding principles for surrogate decision-making. Future research is needed to assess this disagreement and consider ways to address it.
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Archival date: 2022-01-14
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