Collections > UNC Chapel Hill Undergraduate Honors Theses Collection > Physicians' End-of-Life Healthcare Decision-Making

Through a qualitative approach, this thesis seeks to gain a better understanding of end-oflife healthcare decision-making among physicians as well as among non-physician elderly individuals. I investigate both attitudes and knowledge regarding advance directives, decision-making concerning end-of-life healthcare, and the patient-doctor relationship in order to understand why physicians make relatively more conservative end-of-life healthcare decisions than the general public does. Ten non-physician individuals living in retirement communities primarily in the Chapel Hill/Durham area and ten physicians of different specialties working in this region were interviewed. Using non-physician participants’ and physicians’ own words, this study explains the different factors important to these two groups in the end-of-life healthcare decision-making process. Results indicate that the current healthcare system regarding end-of-life healthcare defaults to life-prolonging treatments which non-physician individuals are generally ill-informed about and do not want. Physicians’ backgrounds and experiences greatly influence their personal decision-making and their ability to successfully navigate the healthcare system. Non-physicians and physicians did not desire heroic measures and the role of families was essential to both groups. These results suggest that non-physician individuals are generally not receiving the end-of-life circumstances they desire due to ineffectiveness of the PSDA and the unsuccessful implementation of advance directives as well as barriers in communication.