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Fam Pract. 2018 Jul 23;35(4):495-502. doi: 10.1093/fampra/cmx125.

Do non-terminally ill adults want to discuss the end of life with their family physician? An explorative mixed-method study on patients' preferences and family physicians' views in Belgium.

Author information

End-of-Life Care Research Group, Ghent University & Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB), Brussels, Belgium.
Department of Family Medicine and Primary Health Care, Ghent University, Gent, Belgium.



Research about advance care planning (ACP) has often targeted those with serious illness and limited prognosis, thereby not addressing the preferences of healthy adults or adults with a stable condition.


(i) To describe to what extent patients aged 50 and older who are relatively stable or in good health are thinking about the end of life (EOL) and willing to discuss this with their family physician (FP) and (ii) to explore whether patients and FPs indicate the same topics as triggers for ACP discussions in family practice.


A cross-sectional study was conducted in a diverse sample of 289 patients aged ≥50 years in family practice in Flanders, Belgium. Subsequently, semi-structured interviews were conducted with patients (n = 5) and FPs (n = 5) to explore their preferences and views on ACP in family practice.


The majority (69.8%) of patients had thought about the EOL and would appreciate it if their FP would initiate a conversation about this (75.9%). The qualitative interviews revealed that when thinking about the EOL, a number of themes captured the thoughts of people according to both patients and FPs: (i) becoming care dependent, (ii) physical and mental deterioration, (iii) dying alone and (iv) having paperwork in order. However, on the basis of patients' ideas and FPs' experiences in practice, a difference was noticed between them when it comes to identifying the themes as triggers for initiating ACP discussions.


Although patients are willing to discuss the EOL with their FPs, patients and FPs identified different themes as triggers to initiate discussions about the EOL. The variation in triggers could lead to missed opportunities to engage in ACP in a timely manner.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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