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A living will is a document in which an individual can communicate his or her health care choices to loved ones in the event that he or she is unable to do so directly. Many surrogate decision-makers use living wills as guides; however, the existence of such documents does not entirely relieve them of their burden. Surrogate decision-makers often need to consider the impact of the personal and family burdens entailed by their decisions, and the stress accompanying these burdens regularly creates high levels of anxiety and depression. This stress can be exacerbated when two surrogate decision-makers are at loggerheads as to the best way forward. This case study illustrates the effects of stress accompanying disagreement among surrogate decisionmakers—here, the patient’s adult sons—and demonstrates that a process of listening can help the bioethicist identify the values that are important to the patient and, consequently, to the surrogate as well, and use these values to help address the issue.
Intensive Care Unit
Medical Power of Attorney