An 85-year-old woman with moderate Alzheimer’s disease who enjoys walking in her nursing home’s garden with her walker has fallen and broken her hip. An advance directive signed by the patient states a preference for “Comfort Measures Only,” and specifically states that she does not want to be transferred to the hospital. The physician believes that surgery would provide long-term pain relief and the chance to maintain some mobility.
What do you do? How do you reconcile her previously expressed hypothetical wishes in an Advance Directive with what is now a rather unanticipated scenario?
In a paper published recently in JAMA Internal Medicine, Alex Smith, Bernard Lo, and Rebecca Sudore developed a 5-question framework to help physicians and surrogates through the decision making process in time like this. The framework proposes 5 key-questions to untangle these conflicts:
- Is the clinical situation an emergency?
- In view of the patient’s values and goals, how likely will the benefits of the intervention outweigh the burdens?