Older patients who can't make own decisions stress out 42% of physicians

Many physicians providing care for older patients who cannot make decisions for themselves experience moral distress, according to a study published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

Researchers surveyed 152 physicians caring for older patients who lacked the ability to make decisions and 362 people who acted as surrogate decision-makers for those patients, communicating with physicians and making decisions on their behalf.

For the study, moral distress was defined as an emotional experience in which individuals feel unable to act on deeply held beliefs, resulting in a sense of compromising professional integrity.

Researchers found that 42 percent of physicians experience moral distress when caring for patients who need surrogate decision-makers.

Physician were more likely to experience moral distress when the physician was male, the physician was an intern or other junior-level doctor, the patient was older or decisions needed to be made about life-sustaining treatments.

Physicians were less likely to experience moral distress in certain scenarios, including when the physician or family members had discussed care preferences with the patient before the patient lost their ability to make decisions for themselves and when the physician and surrogate decision-maker agreed on treatment plans.

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