"There is No Communication": A Qualitative Examination of Deaf Signers' Experiences With Advance Care Planning

J Palliat Care. 2023 Jul;38(3):372-380. doi: 10.1177/08258597231179763. Epub 2023 Jun 2.


Objective(s): Deaf American Sign Language (ASL) users are subject to health care disparities resulting from communication and language barriers. Currently, few resources on advance care planning and end-of-life care exist in ASL. This study explores Deaf ASL users' perceptions and experiences with end-of-life care and advance care planning. Methods: Semi-structured 1:1 interviews with Deaf signers were translated, and transcribed into English by a bilingual researcher. Investigators inductively coded transcripts and identified themes of barriers, facilitators, knowledge, and sources of information regarding end-of-life care. Participants' knowledge of advance care planning and completion of advance care planning documents were evaluated using a brief assessment. Results: Eleven Deaf ASL users participated in the study with two deaf interviewers. Participants reported barriers to end-of-life care including poor provider communication, inaccessible sources, and inadequate provision of accommodations, leading to patient distrust. Participants' understanding of advance care planning was facilitated by accessible forms of communication and their social networks, such as family, friends, and Deaf peers. Participants primarily gained information on end-of-life care from first-hand familial experience, peers, and media. Participants' mean advance care planning knowledge was 4.6 out of 15 (SD = 2.6). Conclusions: Deaf ASL users face scarce accessible resources around end-of-life care, lowering their ability to understand and proceed with advance care planning. Implementation of ASL accessible advance care planning educational tools in health care settings is needed.

Keywords: advance care planning; advance directive; deafness; qualitative research; terminal care.

MeSH terms

  • Advance Care Planning*
  • Deafness*
  • Humans
  • Language
  • Sign Language
  • Terminal Care*