Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Margaret Denton




This study examines community living , independent seniors' perceptions and views of preferences for surrogate decision makers, life-sustaining medical treatment, and advance health care directives. Data were collected through in-depth personal interviews with 26 seniors living in the Hamilton-Wentworth area of Ontario. This study looked for differences in these perceptions by socio-demographic background characteristics. Using case vignettes involving elderly patients who are either decisionally or communicatively incapacitated, participants were asked who should make a decision regarding end-of-life medical care decisions for patients, and for their preferences regarding the life-sustaining medical treatments involving respirators, antibiotic intravenous, forced feeding and amputation. Participants were asked for their familiarity with and opinion of advance health care directives. Results suggest that most often seniors prefer to rely upon family members as surrogate decision makers and that most seniors are opposed to aggressive medical treatment. Most seniors were familiar with and have positive attitudes about advance directives, however very few have completed a directive. A discussion and concluding comments suggest themes, concepts and viewpoints that emerge from this study and suggest avenues for further research.

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