Most patients want some control over their medical care, including—or even especially—when they are too sick to participate in decisions. Clinicians who have to make decisions for patients who are unable to participate often would appreciate guidance from patients’ wishes. Advance care planning responds to these needs. The process provides for discussions about goals in different scenarios and allows inclusion of the family and physician as well as the patient. It helps to have the patient and family complete validated worksheets that walk them through the various considerations and result in expressions of preference that are clinically meaningful. For the clinician, scenario-based goals for care and personal thresholds for when desired care shifts from primarily cure-oriented to primarily palliative are the most useful features to know about. The patient and family should do most of the discussing on their own time; the physician and team should coordinate to screen for problems and ensure agreement. Ideally, this should occur over the course of regular clinical encounters, with some dedicated time for the topic at suitable intervals.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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