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Importance of the advance directive and the beginning of the dying process from the point of view of German doctors and judges dealing with guardianship matters: results of an empirical survey
  1. B van Oorschot1,
  2. A Simon2
  1. 1Klinik für Radiologie, Abt Strahlentherapie, Universitätsklinikum Jena, Jena, Germany
  2. 2Akademie für Ethik in der Medizin eV, Göttingen, Germany
  1. Correspondence to:
 B van Oorschot
 Department of Radiation Oncology, Friedrich Schiller University, Bachstr 18, 07740 Jena, Germany; birgitt.oorschot{at}


Objectives: To analyse and compare the surveys on German doctors and judges on end of life decision making regarding their attitudes on the advance directive and on the dying process.

Design: The respondents were to indicate their agreement or disagreement to eight statements on the advance directive and to specify their personal view on the beginning of the dying process.

Participants: 727 doctors (anaesthetists or intensive-care physicians, internal specialists and general practitioners) in three federal states and 469 judges dealing with guardianship matters all over Germany.

Main measurements: Comparisons of means, analyses of variance, pivot tables (χ2 test) and factor analyses (varimax with Kaiser normalisation).

Results: Three attitude groups on advance directive were disclosed by the analysis: the decision model, which emphasises the binding character of a situational advance directive; the deliberation model, which puts more emphasis on the communicative aspect; and the delegation model, which regards the advance directive as a legal instrument. The answers regarding the beginning of the dying process were broadly distributed, but no marked difference was observed between the responding professions. The dying process was assumed by most participants to begin with a life expectancy of only a few days.

Conclusions: A high degree of valuation for advance directive was seen in both German doctors and judges; most agreed to the binding character of the situational directive. Regarding the different individual concepts of the dying process, a cross-professional discourse on the contents of this term seems to be overdue.

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  • Competing interests: None.

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