Standards for Surrogate Decision Making

by Mark Hughes, MD, MA

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    00:01 There are going to be two ways that surrogate decision makers can make decisions and you heard about this in the informed consent lecture.

    00:07 The two ways, the two standards are substituted judgment and best interest.

    00:13 Substituted judgment is when the patient, again, can make their own decisions but has communicated in some way their preferences, their values to the surrogate.

    00:25 So, the surrogate is then making decisions based on their knowledge of who the patient is, what their health condition is and can sort of surmise based on their intimate knowledge of the patient and their life, how they would make particular medical decisions.

    00:40 So, that's substituted judgement. If the patient has not communicated those values and preferences to the surrogate, then, the surrogate has to rely on best interest standard and that is you don't know what substituted judgment would be.

    00:54 In this particular circumstance, you don't have an advanced directive to refer to.

    00:58 You need to interpret best interest in light of the current clinical situation.

    01:04 So, the surrogate gathers all the information, decides what's best on behalf of the patient, all things considered based on what the, you know, clinicians have communicated to them.

    01:17 So, how do you figure out what best interest is? How is the surrogate going to figure out what best interests are for the patient? It's going to be both what is beneficial to the patient as well as what would avoid harm to the patient.

    01:30 This calculus of benefit and burden or harm has to be weighed in by the surrogate decision maker.

    01:37 The things that the clinician should encourage the surrogate decision maker to factor in when they're thinking about best interest, number one would be things like what are the effects of the treatment on the physical, emotional, and cognitive functions of the patient.

    01:51 So, again, speaking to their health values. Do they know the patient? How they would feel about, you know, any kind of physical function, how they're cognitively functioning, what's the effect of the treatment on those things? Maybe that best interest is going to be related to the prognosis of the patient.

    02:10 So, what are their chances of success for recovery from the condition with or without treatment? So, what's the natural history of the disease process? What would the patient want knowing that? What would the treatment do to affect that, the prognosis of the treatment might speak to how the surrogate thinks about best interest.

    02:33 The particular treatments might have their own side effects or potential complications.

    02:37 What's the likelihood of those things happening? With that also speak to the best interest of the patient, you know, the patient would never wanna accept that complication, so, we shouldn't go down that path.

    02:52 What's the treatment going to do for the life expectancy of the patient? You know, how important was prolonging the life of the patient to the patient? Does the surrogate speak to best interest knowing life expectancy of the patient? Quality of life may be an important factor.

    03:09 So, similar to what we're doing with patients, when we're thinking about quantity of life versus quality of life and trying to figure out what's important to them, we should ask the surrogate decision maker to think about best interests in light of is the patient experiencing any pain, any discomfort.

    03:24 Do they have dependencies that they need to rely on a caregiver to help them with? What are the effects of treatment on their quality of life? Would it make it better, make it worse? The surrogate can then say, this is how they would think about best interest.

    03:41 And then, for some patients, their religious beliefs, their religious traditions, their basic values may be important to how they make medical decisions.

    03:49 So, asking the surrogate, what do you know about the patient and their religious beliefs? That would speak to what's in their best interest in regard to this particular medical treatment that we are proposing.

    About the Lecture

    The lecture Standards for Surrogate Decision Making by Mark Hughes, MD, MA is from the course Surrogate Decision Making and Family Meetings.

    Included Quiz Questions

    1. When substituted judgment cannot be made
    2. When implied judgment cannot be made
    3. When necessary judgment cannot be made
    4. When implicit judgment cannot be made
    5. When primary judgment cannot be made
    1. Effects of treatment on physical function
    2. Prognosis for recovery of the patient
    3. Side effects and potential complications of treatment
    4. Effect on the life expectancy of the patient
    5. Considerations regarding distribution of the patient's inheritance
    1. Decision based on the surrogate's knowledge of the patient's values and preferences
    2. Decision based on the patient's knowledge of the surrogate's values and preferences
    3. Decision based on the family's knowledge of the surrogate's values and preferences
    4. Decision based on the patient's knowledge of the family's values and preferences
    5. Decision based on the family's knowledge of the patient's values and preferences

    Author of lecture Standards for Surrogate Decision Making

     Mark Hughes, MD, MA

    Mark Hughes, MD, MA

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