Underlying goals of advance care planning (ACP): a qualitative analysis of the literature

Nienke Fleuren, Marja F I A Depla, Daisy J A Janssen, Martijn Huisman, Cees M P M Hertogh, MFIA Depla, CMPM Hertogh

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article*Academicpeer-review


BACKGROUND: Since the introduction of the concept of advance care planning (ACP), many studies have been conducted exploring beneficial effects. These studies show a heterogeneity in clinical endpoints, which reflects diversity of goals connected to ACP. This study aims to get insight in the range of underlying goals that comprise the legitimacy of ACP.

METHODS: Systematic literature search in PubMed, EMBASE, PsychInfo, CINAHL and Cochrane Library. Articles on normative aspects of ACP were included, based on title and abstract. Due to the quantity of inclusions, of which many had similar content, purposive sampling was used to select articles for full text document analysis. Analysis stopped once saturation was reached.

RESULTS: In total, 6497 unique articles were found of which 183 were included. Saturation was reached after document analysis of 55 articles (30%); this yielded 141 codes concerning goals of ACP and also 70 codes about objections against ACP, which shed light on the underlying goals of ACP as well. We identified five underlying goals: respecting individual patient autonomy, improving quality of care, strengthening relationships, preparing for end-of-life, reducing overtreatment.

CONCLUSIONS: Five distinctive underlying goals of ACP were identified, each with corresponding objections that need to be considered. Specifying underlying goals of ACP may direct the debate on definitions, methods and preferred outcomes of ACP. This study was funded by the Netherlands Organisation for Health Research and Development, grant 839120002.

Original languageEnglish
Article number27
Number of pages1
JournalBMC Palliative Care
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 6 Mar 2020


  • Advance Care Planning
  • Evaluation Studies as Topic
  • Goals
  • Humans
  • Netherlands

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