Key Physician Behaviors that Predict Prudent, Preference Concordant Decisions at the End of Life

AJOB Empirical Bioethics 12 (4):215-226 (2021)
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Abstract

Background This study introduces an empirical approach for studying the role of prudence in physician treatment of end-of-life (EOL) decision making.Methods A mixed-methods analysis of transcripts from 88 simulated patient encounters in a multicenter study on EOL decision making. Physicians in internal medicine, emergency medicine, and critical care medicine were asked to evaluate a decompensating, end-stage cancer patient. Transcripts of the encounters were coded for actor, action, and content to capture the concept of Aristotelian prudence, and then quantitatively and qualitatively analyzed to identify actions associated with preference-concordant treatment.Results Focusing on codes that describe characteristics of physician-patient interaction, the code for physicians restating patient preferences was associated with avoiding intubation. Multiple codes were associated with secondary measures of preference-concordant treatment.Conclusions Prudent actions can be identified empirically, and research focused on the virtue of prudence may provide a new avenue for assessment and training in EOL care.

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