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Doctors not comfortable talking with patient surrogates

NEWS IN BRIEF — Posted Oct. 12, 2009

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One in five doctors finds interactions with surrogate decision-makers stressful and uncomfortable, according to a study in the September Journal of General Internal Medicine. The physicians said they struggled to communicate effectively with patient surrogates and reach a satisfactory conclusion, said the study of 281 internists, family physicians, intensivists and hospitalists.

Doctors' struggles stem from a lack of clarity about who should make decisions when patients no longer can decide for themselves, said the study's senior author, Alexia Torke, MD, assistant professor of medicine at the Indiana University School of Medicine.

"Often, neither the physician nor the family knows what course of treatment the patient would have elected," Dr. Torke said. "Physicians reported that they also feel significant distress when they make these decisions."

Note: This item originally appeared at http://www.ama-assn.org/amednews/2009/10/12/prbf1012.htm.

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