living your best to the end

Substitute Decision-Makers Suffer Post-Traumatic-Stress

Surrogates suffer in their role as patients’ decision-makers “A Systematic review: the effect on surrogates of making treatment decisions for others“– published in the Annals of Internal Medicine – was the topic of discussion on Pallimed: A Hospice & Palliative Medicine Blog.1 Substitute decision-makers, described as “a solution to a problem created solely by advancing medical technology,” often help make treatment decisions for patients who cannot do so themselves. There is an effect on the surrogate that has not been assessed. Surrogates are mostly family members The authors researched 40 studies of 2,854 surrogates and found that in more than 50% of cases, the surrogates were members of the patient’s family. In one study, the surrogates, who were relatives, felt guilt about their treatment decisions. At least one-third of the surrogates felt “a negative emotional burden” such as anxiety or stress from the process Symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder among family members who had participated in making decisions were also present in several of the reviewed studies. Study authors wrote:, “Our evaluation of more than 2,800 surrogates indicates that this practice places emotional stress and burden on at least one-third of surrogates, which is often substantial and lasts months or, in some cases, years.”2 A group in Munich, Germany, also looked at the role that family members play in making decisions about life-prolonging treatment in seriously ill patients. The researchers followed 70 patients with terminal cancer in whom physicians were considering whether to limit life-prolonging treatment. They recorded the patients‘ wishes about end-of-life care, the roles of their family members, and how both groups felt about limiting treatment. Although the...