Life values, resuscitation preferences, and the applicability of living wills in an older population

J Am Geriatr Soc. 1996 Aug;44(8):954-8. doi: 10.1111/j.1532-5415.1996.tb01867.x.


Objectives: To determine whether life values are related to resuscitation preferences and living will completion in an older population and to assess beliefs about the applicability of living wills.

Design: Individual structured interviews.

Setting: An independent retirement community.

Participants: One hundred thirty-two subjects older than 63 years of age.

Measurements: Resuscitation preferences were elicited in five hypothetical scenarios. Subjects with living wills were asked whether their living will would play a role in the scenarios. Subjects rated the importance of 13 life value statements.

Results: The percentage of subjects desiring CPR in each scenario was as follows: current condition (66%); acute illness (33%); terminal disease (8%); functional impairment (8%); and dementia (7%). The percentage of those with a living will who thought their living wills would play a role in the scenarios was as follows: acute illness (84%); terminal disease (93%); functional impairment with intact cognition (66%); and dementia (91%). Factor analysis of the life value statements revealed five meaningful factors: quality of life; capacity/autonomy; family relations; physical comfort; and treatment philosophy. Multiple correlations were found between four of five life value factors and hypothetical resuscitation preferences or the presence of a living will.

Conclusion: Subjects misinterpreted the applicability of living wills in nonterminal illness scenarios. A relationship between life values and resuscitation preferences was noted, which emphasizes the importance of eliciting and including life values when discussing advance directives.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Attitude to Health
  • Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation / psychology*
  • Comprehension*
  • Decision Making
  • Female
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • Living Wills / psychology*
  • Male
  • Marriage
  • Middle Aged
  • Personal Autonomy
  • Quality of Life*
  • Social Values*
  • Stress, Psychological
  • Surveys and Questionnaires