Making Medical Decisions for Incapacitated Patients Without Proxies: Part I.
HEC Forum. 2019 Nov 04;:
Authors: Griggins C, Blackstone E, McAliley L, Daly B
To date no one has identified or described the population of incapacitated patients being treated in an inpatient setting who lack proxy decision-makers. Nor, despite repeated calls for protocols to be developed for decision-making, has any institution reported on the utilization of such a protocol. In 2005, our urban tertiary care hospital instituted a protocol utilizing community members of the ethics committee to meet with the medical providers and engage in shared decision-making for patients without proxies (PWPs). We conducted a retrospective chart review and in this paper describe nearly 200 patients who were identified and treated according to the protocol over a 12 year period. After an aggressive search, family members were located for a surprising number of patients, leaving 80 patients who needed decisions to be made utilizing the PWP committee. We review the decisions required, the results of the shared decision-making meetings, and the patient outcomes. Our experience has shown that a protocol involving community volunteers to make decisions for PWPs in a timely manner is feasible and ethically defensible. The protocol has been accepted by physicians and utilized with increasing frequency. Because it was possible to gather at least minimal information on most patients, a standard of "informed best interest" was used to make decisions. PWP committee recommendations varied, but in all cases agreement was reached with the attending physicians.
PMID: 31686275 [PubMed - as supplied by publisher]