PURPOSE Advance directives (AD) have been heralded as vehicles to promote patient autonomy and have been decried as ineffective. Efforts to improve advance care planning (ACP) and AD documents are wide ranging but have not been prospectively studied. MATERIALS AND METHODS In an institutional review board–approved, single-blind, randomized, controlled trial, we compared an interactive, educational ACP decision aid to standard ACP among patients with advanced cancer. We hypothesized that use of the decision aid would increase physician awareness of patients’ health care wishes and increase physician adherence to patients’ end-of-life wishes compared with standard ACP. RESULTS A total of 200 patients were randomly assigned to two study arms. We analyzed data from medical records and interviews with physicians and family members for 121 patients who died by August 2016. No differences in physician awareness or adherence were found between the ACP decision aid and standard ACP groups. End-of-life treatment wishes and discussion of wishes were documented for 70% and 64% of the patients, respectively, but only 35% had an actual AD in the medical record. According to family members, end-of-life care was consistent with the patients’ stated wishes 94% of the time. Similarly, according to physicians, it was consistent for 98%. However, according to AD documents, delivered care was consistent with desired care in only 65%. Considerably fewer patients than predicted died, and data from physicians were difficult to obtain. CONCLUSION ACP type did not influence documentation of patient wishes or end-of-life care received. Future prospective studies must account for challenges in prognostication and point-of-care data collection at the end of life.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)E65-E73
JournalJournal of oncology practice
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Oncology
  • Oncology(nursing)
  • Health Policy


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