Grounds for surrogate decision-making in Japanese clinical practice: a qualitative survey

Masashi Tanaka, Kayoko Ohnishi, Aya Enzo, Taketoshi Okita, Atsushi Asai

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Background: In the coming years, surrogate decision-making is expected to become highly prevalent in Japanese clinical practice. Further, there has been a recent increase in activities promoting advance care planning, which potentially affects the manner in which judgements are made by surrogate decision-makers. This study aims to clarify the grounds on which surrogate decision-makers in Japan base their judgements. Methods: In this qualitative study, semi-structured interviews were conducted to examine the judgement grounds in surrogate decision-making for critical life-sustaining treatment choices in acute care hospitals. Results: A total of 228 participants satisfied the inclusion criteria, and 15 were selected for interviews. We qualitatively analysed the content of 14 interview transcripts, excluding one that did not meet the inclusion criteria. Based on this analysis, we extracted 4 core categories, 17 categories, 35 subcategories, and 55 codes regarding judgement grounds in surrogate decision-making. The four core categories were as follows: patient preference-oriented factor (Type 1), patient interest-oriented factor (Type 2), family preference-oriented factor (Type 3), and balanced patient/family preference-oriented factor (Type 4). The Type 4 core category represented attempts to balance the preferences of the patient with those of the surrogate decision-maker. Conclusions: Surrogate decision-makers based their decisions on important aspects related to a patient’s life, and they considered not only the patient’s preferences and best interests but also their own preferences. As the need for surrogate decisions will increase in the future, decision-makers will need to consider judgement grounds from a more diverse perspective.

Original languageEnglish
Article number5
JournalBMC Medical Ethics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2021 Dec

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Issues, ethics and legal aspects
  • Health(social science)
  • Health Policy


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