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Gerontologist. 1992 Feb;32(1):89-95.

Factors influencing hospital patients' preferences in the utilization of life-sustaining treatments.

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  • 1Center on Aging, Georgetown University, School of Medicine, Washington, DC 20009.


Ninety-seven elderly hospitalized patients were asked about their preferences for several treatments under three hypothetical levels of future cognitive functioning: intact, confused, and unconscious. Levels of cognitive functioning and depression were also assessed. Sixty-six percent of the patients were more likely to want treatment if they expected to be cognitively intact than when a future condition involved impaired cognition; 36% did not want any treatment in at least 75% of the conditions; and 16% wanted treatment in at least 75% of the conditions studied. A minority (12%) did not show any pattern in their preferences. The absence of a definite pattern was related to lower levels of education and to higher levels of depressive symptoms. Patients self-reported their preferences for treatments being influenced most by their personal values, religion, and by experiences with illnesses of others.

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