Questioning the decision-making capacity of surrogates

Katrina A. Bramstedt*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

37 Citations (Scopus)


When patients are unable to make medical decisions for themselves due to cognitive impairment, surrogate decision makers are often called on to guide the medical team. Important to any decision made on behalf of the patient is that the decision reflects the values and preferences of the patient in light of the patient's clinical status and prognosis. Challenges arise for the medical team when surrogates themselves have questionable decision-making capacity due to psychosocial issues, conflict of interest, or the obvious projection of their own personal values and treatment preferences instead of the patient's. Even if an alternative surrogate is available, there is no consensus on when and how to switch from the primary surrogate to the alternative surrogate. This paper uses a clinical case to explore the notion of surrogate decision-making capacity, offering guidance for determining when it is appropriate to defer to an alternative surrogate, as well as guidance for managing the process of appointing the alternative as the new primary decision maker.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)257-259
Number of pages3
JournalInternal Medicine Journal
Issue number5-6
Publication statusPublished - May 2003
Externally publishedYes


Dive into the research topics of 'Questioning the decision-making capacity of surrogates'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this