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Bioethics and Medical Ethics | Medicine and Health Sciences


Patient autonomy is a basic tenet of ethical decision making in medicine. Individuals who are unable to participate in decision making at the end of life present a unique challenge to delivering ethical patient-­centered care. To ensure patient autonomy is upheld, providers are encouraged to use healthcare directives to guide clinical decision-­making. Healthcare directives are designed to uphold patient autonomy by indicating the desired scope of care at the end of life. While a particular type of healthcare directive, the advance care directive, is widely accepted, there are two common issues concerning its use: interpretation and accessibility. Issues with advance care directives have been largely circumvented by a new method of documentation: the physician order for life sustaining treatment (POLST). In addition to a review of the ethical issues pertaining to healthcare directives, this paper will outline a multi-­methodological study proposal developed with support from the Lindmark Fellowship in Ethics.


Faculty mentor: Dr. Jennifer Kramer, Ph.D. Associate Professor of Communication, College of Saint Benedict and Saint John's University.