Roles and Responsibilities of Health Care Agents: Views of Patients and Agents

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Two qualitative methods were used to explore, from the perspectives of both patients and agents, the roles and responsibilities of health care agents related to making end-of-life decisions. Results of the individual interviews revealed that both patients and agents did not have a clear understanding of the role, responsibility, and legal authority of health care agents. The results of the focus group of former agents indicated that when assuming the role, some agents had both knowledge and experience in making end-of-life decisions, whereas others had little understanding of their role. Former agents discussed serious communication difficulties they had encountered with health care professionals when making life-and-death decisions.

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