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This paper presents the results of a qualitative interview study exploring English and French physicians' moral perspectives and attitudes towards end-of-life decisions when patients lack capacity to make decisions for themselves. The paper aims to examine the importance physicians from different contexts accord to patient preferences and to explore the (potential) role of advance directives (ADs) in each context. The interviews focus on (1) problems that emerge when deciding to withdraw/-hold life-sustaining treatment from both conscious and unconscious patients; (2) decision-making procedures and the participation of proxies/relatives; (3) previous experience with ADs and views on their usefulness; and (4) perspectives on ways in which the decision-making processes in question might be improved. The analysis reveals differences in the way patient preferences are taken into consideration and shows how these differences influence the reasons physicians in each country invoke to justify their reluctance to adhering to ADs. Identifying cultural differences that complicate efforts to develop the practical implementation of ADs can help to inform national policies governing ADs and to better adapt them to practice.

Original publication




Journal article


Med Health Care Philos

Publication Date





425 - 435


Advance Directive Adherence, Advance Directives, England, France, Humans, Interviews as Topic, Patient Preference, Physicians, Terminal Care, Withholding Treatment