Dissociation between the Wishes of Terminally Ill Parents and Decisions by Their Offspring

Moshe Sonnenblick, Yechiel Friedlander, Avraham Steinberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

82 Scopus citations


Objective: To assess the attitude and factors affecting decision‐making by offspring for life‐sustaining measures toward their elderly terminally ill parents. Design: Survey Setting: Acute geriatric department of a university‐affiliated teaching hospital. Patients and Participants: 108 offspring of 48 terminally ill elderly patients were interviewed. Measurements: The attitude of offspring regarding life‐sustaining measures based on a comprehensive questionnaire, administered by face‐to‐face interview, that included clinical, social, and religious information for each patient and social, religious, demographic, and educational information for each family member. Results: A significant majority requested the continuation of fluid, nutrition, and medication (78%, 66%, 73%, respectively). A minority of 25%–29% requested the initiation of resuscitation, mechanical ventilation, and dialysis. Active euthanasia was requested by seven offspring. Factors that significantly affected offspring's decisions were the degree of religious observance and close relationship. Approximately 50% of offspring believed they knew their parents' wishes, but most of them did not comply with the parents' wishes. The offspring's preferences for themselves differed in important aspects from the requests for their parents. The great majority stated that a family member and/or the responsible physician should be involved in the decision‐making process (76% and 79%, respectively). Only 2.0% suggested the participation of an ethics committee, and the court was rejected by all. Conclusions: Basic life‐sustaining measures are requested for the terminally ill parents by most of the offspring. A significant minority even requested aggressive life‐sustaining measures. The degree of religiosity and closeness of relationship influenced offspring's request most strongly. 1993 The American Geriatrics Society

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)599-604
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of the American Geriatrics Society
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1993
Externally publishedYes


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