Minority Populations and Advance Directives: Insights from a Focus Group Methodology

Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics 6 (1):58-71 (1997)
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Abstract

Numerous studies have shown almost uniformly positive opinions among patients and physicians regarding theconceptof advance directives (either a healthcare proxy or living will). Several of these studies have also shown that the actual use of advance directives is significantly lower than this enthusiasm would suggest, but they have not explained the apparent discordance. Nor have researchers explained why members of minority groups are much less likely to complete advance directives than are white patients. In this study, we used a focus group methodology to examine the ways in which diverse populations of patients view the medical, philosophical, and practical issues surrounding advance directives. We were motivated by the significantly lower prevalence of advance directives among African-American and Hispanic patients at one urban teaching hospital (18% for Caucasians, 4% for African-Americans, and 2% for Hispanics). Our premise was that African-American and Hispanic populations, who have had higher rates of morbidity and mortality across numerous disease categories, and historically have had limited access to care and opportunities to discuss health concerns, may be more suspicious about the right of autonomy that an advance directive is designed to ensure.

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