The Influence of Hypothetical Death Scenarios on Multidimensional End-of-Life Care Preferences

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Abstract

Background:

Differences in end-of-life (EOL) care preferences (eg, location of death, use of life-sustaining treatments, openness to hastening death, etc) based on hypothetical death scenarios and associated physical and/or cognitive losses have yet to be investigated within the palliative care literature.

Aim:

The purpose of this study was to explore the multidimensional EOL care preferences in relation to 3 different hypothetical death scenarios: pancreatic cancer (acute death), Alzheimer disease (gradual death), and congestive heart failure (intermittent death).

Design:

General linear mixed-effects regression models estimated whether multidimensional EOL preferences differed under each of the hypothetical death scenarios; all models controlled for personal experience and familiarity with the disease, presence of an advance directive, religiosity, health-related quality of life, and relevant demographic characteristics.

Setting/Participants:

A national sample of healthy adults aged 50 years and older (N = 517) completed electronic surveys detailing their multidimensional preferences for EOL care for each hypothetical death scenario.

Results:

The average age of the participants was 60.1 years (standard deviation = 7.6), 74.7% were female, and 66.1% had a college or postgraduate degree. Results revealed significant differences in multidimensional care preferences between hypothetical death scenarios related to preferences for location of death (ie, home vs medical facility) and preferences for life-prolonging treatment options. Significant covariates of participants’ multidimensional EOL care preferences included age, sex, health-related quality of life, and religiosity.

Conclusion:

Our hypothesis that multidimensional EOL care preferences would differ based on hypothetical death scenarios was partially supported and suggests the need for disease-specific EOL care discussions.

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