A critical review of advance directives in Germany: attitudes, use and healthcare professionals’ compliance

N. Evans, C. Bausewein, A. Meñaca, E.V.W. Andrew, I.J. Higginson, R. Harding, R. Pool, M. Gysels

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65 Citations (Scopus)


Recent legal changes in Germany make non-compliance with advance directives (ADs) a criminal offence. This article assesses the evidence on attitudes towards, use of, and physician compliance with ADs in Germany.

Critical review: studies on ADs, identified from a systematic review of culture and end-of-life care in Germany (11 electronic databases, 3 journals, reference lists, and grey literature), were included. An interpretative synthesis of findings revealed cross-cutting themes.

Thirty-two studies (1996-2009) were identified. Key themes were: awareness; utilization; compliance; and bindingness of ADs. There was a positive trend between awareness of ADs and study publication date. Use varied between patient groups (0.3-62%) and was low amongst the general population (2.5-10%). Fears about ADs’ purpose and possible abuse were identified. Physician discomfort in discussing ADs and non-compliance were reported. Physicians preferred legally binding ADs, though conflicting results were reported for patients’ desired level of bindingness.

Although there is increasing awareness of ADs in Germany, there remains low use, poor communication, fears of abuse, some non-compliance and contradictory evidence regarding desired bindingness.

Practical implications
Although legal changes will hopefully improve compliance, low awareness, communication difficulties and uncertainties surrounding ADs must be addressed if use is to increase.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)277-288
JournalPatient Education and Counseling
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2012

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