This Article considers how best to ensure that patients have the tools to make informed choices about their care as they near death. Informed decision making can help reduce excessive end-of-life care and unnecessary suffering, and result in care that aligns with patients’ well-considered values and preferences. The many factors that contribute to dying patients receiving too much therapy and life-prolonging care include: the culture of denial of death, physicians’ professional culture and attitudes toward treatment, physicians’ fear of liability, physicians’ avoidance of discussions about prognosis, and the impact of payment incentives that encourage overutilization of medical technologies.
Under the doctrine of informed consent, physicians have an ethical and legal obligation to provide patients with timely and accurate information that will enable patients to make informed decisions about end-of-life care. However, compliance with the informed consent law does not ensure that patients’ decisions are truly informed. The Authors provide several tools and techniques available to help physicians and patients achieve the goal of truly informed decision making, including training to promote the practice of shared decision making and the use of decision aids.