Attitudes Toward Advance Directives Among Patients and Their Family Members in China.
OBJECTIVES Chinese people are generally unfamiliar with the concept of advance care planning or advance directives (ACP/ADs), which raises dilemmas in life-support choice and can even affect clinical decision making. To understand and address the issues involved better, we investigated the awareness of ACP/ADs in China, as well as people's attitudes toward medical autonomy and end-of-life care. DESIGN A multicenter cross-sectional survey, conducted from August 1 to December 31, 2016. SETTING Twenty-five hospitals located in 15 different provinces throughout mainland China. PARTICIPANTS Pairs of adult patients without dementia or malignancies, and a family member. MEASUREMENTS Participants self-filled anonymous questionnaires, and the data collected were analyzed to relate patients' sociodemographic characteristics to their awareness of ACP/ADs and attitudes to health care autonomy and end-of-life care. RESULTS Among 1084 patients who completed the questionnaire, 415 (38.3%) had heard about ACP/ADs. Having been informed about ACP/ADs, 995 (91.8%) were willing to find out their true health status and decide for themselves; 549 (50.6%) wanted to institute ACP/ADs. Regarding end-of-life care, 473 (43.6%) chose Do Not Resuscitate, and 435 (40.1%) wished to forgo life-support treatment if irreversibly moribund. Patients predominantly (481, 44.4%) chose general hospital as their preferred place to spend their last days of life; only 114 (10.5%) favored a special hospice facility. Patients' main concerns during end-of-life care were symptom control (35.1%), followed by functional maintenance and quality of life (29.8%), and prolonging life (18.9%). More highly educated patients had significantly greater awareness of ACP/ADs than less well educated ones (χ2 = 59.22, P < .001) and were more willing to find out the truth for themselves (χ2 = 58.30, P ≤ .001) and make medical decisions in advance (χ2 = 55.92, P < .001). Younger patients were also more willing than older ones to know the truth (χ2 = 38.23, P = .001) and make medical decisions in advance (χ2 = 18.42, P = .018), and were also more likely to wish to die at home (χ2 = 96.25, P < .001). Only 212 patients' family members (19.6%) wanted life-support treatment for themselves if irreversibly moribund, whereas 592 (54.6%) would want their relative to receive such procedures in the same circumstances; a similar discrepancy was evident for end-of-life invasive treatment (18.3% vs 42.7%). CONCLUSIONS Awareness about ACP/ADs in China is still low. Providing culturally sensitive knowledge, education, and communication regarding ACP/ADs is a feasible first step to promoting this sociomedical practice.