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Study questions accuracy of our memory, living wills

April 26, 2008

Living wills may not accurately represent a person’s wishes for end-of-life treatment, according to a study two UCI psychology researchers published in the journal Health Psychology.

For the study, Peter Ditto and Elizabeth Loftus asked 401 people older than 65 which life-sustaining treatments they would want to have if they were seriously ill. They asked the participants whether they would want treatments like CPR and tube feeding, if they were necessary to keep them alive.

One year later, they asked the participants to recall their wishes, and about one-third of them changed their minds. Most of the participants who changed their minds did not think their wishes had changed, which convinced Ditto and Loftus that living wills should have an “expiration date.”

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“Our research stresses the importance of maintaining an ongoing dialogue among individuals, their families and their physicians about end-of-life treatment options,” Ditto said.

— Alan Blank


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