The Ethics of Choosing a Surrogate Decision Maker When Equal-Priority Surrogates Disagree

Narrative Inquiry in Bioethics 11 (1):121-131 (2021)
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When decisionally incapable patients need a surrogate to make medical decisions for them, sometimes the patient has not appointed a healthcare agent and there is intractable disagreement among potential surrogates of equal priority, legal rank, or relation to the patient (e.g., child vs. child, sibling vs. sibling). There is no ethical, legal, or professional consensus about how to identify the appropriate surrogate in such circumstances. This article presents a case study involving an elderly female patient whose four children disagree about whether to continue life-sustaining treatment for their mother, along with an ethical analysis of various strategies for selecting the appropriate surrogate in cases of conflicting equal-rank family members. It critically examines three different strategies—chance, majority rules, and quality of relationship with the patient—and defends the third approach.



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Matthew Shea
Franciscan University of Steubenville

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Georgia on My Mind: Daughters, Dementia and Discharge.Cynthia M. A. Geppert - 2022 - American Journal of Bioethics 22 (1):75-76.

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