Surrogates' perceptions about feeding tube placement decisions

Patient Educ Couns. 2006 May;61(2):246-52. doi: 10.1016/j.pec.2005.04.012. Epub 2006 Feb 24.


Objectives: (1) To determine surrogates perceptions about who made the decision to place the feeding tube and who they would have preferred to have made the decision. (2) To determine surrogates' perceptions of the information they received to make this decision.

Methods: Structured interviews with 246 surrogate decision-makers.

Results: Fifty-five percent of surrogates felt that the decision was made primarily by the surrogate, but 75% would prefer that the decision be shared with the physician. Surrogates reported that they discussed the benefits (80%) and the risks (72%) of feeding tube placement and discussed what life would be like with the feeding tube (65%) and without the feeding tube (67%). They also reported being asked if they understood the information (85%) and their thoughts about placement (56%). Despite receiving this information, 28 to 41% reported wanting more information about these aspects.

Conclusion: Surrogates would have preferred greater physician participation in decisions about feeding tube placement and many reported that their informational needs were not completely met.

Practice implications: These results suggest that physicians may be justified in taking a more active role in feeding tube decisions with surrogates and that many surrogates desire more information than is required by standards of informed decision making.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living
  • Attitude to Health*
  • Choice Behavior
  • Cooperative Behavior
  • Decision Making*
  • Enteral Nutrition / psychology*
  • Female
  • Gastrostomy / psychology*
  • Health Services Needs and Demand
  • Humans
  • Living Wills
  • Male
  • North Carolina
  • Patient Advocacy
  • Patient Selection
  • Physician's Role / psychology
  • Professional-Family Relations
  • Proxy / psychology*
  • Role
  • Self Concept
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Third-Party Consent
  • Uncertainty
  • Withholding Treatment