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Do Older Adults Know Their Spouses' End-of-Life Treatment Preferences? (ICPSR 25701)

Principal Investigator(s): Moorman, Sara M., University of Wisconsin-Madison; Hauser, Robert M., University of Wisconsin-Madison; Carr, Deborah S., Rutgers University


When terminally ill patients become mentally incapacitated, their surrogates often make treatment decisions in collaboration with health care providers. The authors examined how surrogates' errors in reporting their spouses' preferences are affected by their gender, status as durable power of attorney for health care (DPAHC), whether they and their spouses discussed end-of-life preferences, and their spouses' health status. Structural equation models were applied to data from married couples in their mid-60s from the 2004 wave of the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study. Surrogates reported their spouses' preferences incorrectly 13 percent and 26 percent of the time in end-of-life scenarios involving cognitive impairment and physical pain, respectively. Surrogates projected their own preferences onto their spouses'. Similar patterns emerged regardless of surrogate gender and status as DPAHC, marital discussions about end-of-life preferences, or spousal health status. Implications for the process of surrogate decision-making and for future research are discussed.

Access Notes

  • These data are flagged as replication datasets and are distributed exactly as they arrived from the data depositor. ICPSR has not checked or processed this material. Users should consult the investigator(s) if further information is desired.

  • The public-use data files in this collection are available for access by the general public. Access does not require affiliation with an ICPSR member institution.


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Study Description


Moorman, Sara M., Robert M. Hauser, and Deborah S. Carr. Do Older Adults Know Their Spouses' End-of-Life Treatment Preferences?. ICPSR25701-v1. Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 2009-06-23. https://doi.org/10.3886/ICPSR25701.v1

Persistent URL: https://doi.org/10.3886/ICPSR25701.v1

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This study was funded by:

  • United States Department of Health and Human Services. National Institutes of Health. National Institute on Aging (T32-AG000129)

Scope of Study

Subject Terms:    aging, caregiver burden, caregivers, death, dying, health care, health care services, health status, marital relations, marriage, medical care, patient care, patients, physician patient relationship, power of attorney, spouses, surrogate, terminal care, terminal illnesses, treatment

Geographic Coverage:    United States

Data Collection Notes:

A zipped package contains a syntax and system file (both in SPSS format), and documentation (in Word and text formats) needed to replicate the results of the study.

These data are part of ICPSR's Publication-Related Archive and are distributed exactly as they arrived from the data depositor. ICPSR has not checked or processed this material. Users should consult the investigators if further information is desired.



Original ICPSR Release:   2009-06-23

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