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Fam Syst Health. 2013 Dec;31(4):366-81. doi: 10.1037/a0033372. Epub 2013 Aug 19.

Similarity, agreement, and assumed similarity in proxy end-of-life decision making.

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Psychological Sciences Program, University of California Merced.
Department of Psychology, University of Notre Dame.
Department of Psychology, University of South Carolina Upstate.


Medical decisions near the end of life are often made by proxies who can be inaccurate in their judgments of patient preferences. Given that accuracy in surrogate decision making is an important goal in end-of-life decision making, and in light of that previously seen levels of accuracy reflect substantial disagreement, error, or both, this study examined both relationship and individual factors that potentially affect surrogate accuracy. Specifically, this study examined similarity, agreement, and assumed similarity-a process whereby raters use their own traits and preferences to rate another person-in spousal ratings of end-of-life treatment. This study expands on previous research by examining the potential influence of relationship factors and assumed similarity on end-of-life decision making among a sample of newlyweds. Newly married couples (n = 197) completed self and spouse measures of hypothetical end-of-life preferences and scales assessing marital satisfaction, personality, and attitudes. Results indicate a moderate level of similarity on husband and wife self-rated end-of-life treatment preferences (rs = .18-.29) and a moderate level of agreement between self and proxy ratings (rs = .17-.41). The largest correlations were seen between self ratings and proxy ratings (e.g., husband self ratings and husband proxy ratings of wife preferences, rs = .46-.69), reflecting strong assumed similarity in proxy ratings. For wives, similarity with husbands on a few attitudinal variables (i.e., spirituality, moral strictness, and conservatism) influenced proxy accuracy. Recognizing the potential impact of personal preferences on proxy ratings, as well as the potential influence of relationship factors, may help improve proxy accuracy and end-of-life care for patients and families.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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