Table 2.

Serious illness treatment preference and acceptance of common end-of-life scenarios

Common End-of-Life ScenarioaLive as Long as Possible (n=74)Try Treatments, but Do Not Suffer (n=133)Focus on Comfort (n=126)
Cannot recognize family/friends
 Difficult, but acceptable51 (38)23 (31)19 (24)
 Worth living, but just barely18 (13)19 (25)14 (18)
 Not worth living14 (10)47 (62)51 (64)
 Can’t answer now18 (13)11 (15)16 (20)
Cannot think or talk clearly
 Difficult, but acceptable51 (38)20 (26)18 (23)
 Worth living, but just barely28 (21)27 (36)21 (26)
 Not worth living10 (7)46 (61)47 (59)
 Can’t answer now11 (8)8 (10)14 (18)
Cannot respond to commands
 Difficult, but acceptable43 (32)16 (21)12 (15)
 Worth living, but just barely20 (15)17 (22)24 (30)
 Not worth living19 (14)57 (76)50 (63)
 Can’t answer now18 (13)11 (14)14 (18)
Cannot walk but can use a wheelchair
 Difficult, but acceptable69 (51)66 (87)52 (65)
 Worth living, but just barely22 (16)21 (28)28 (35)
 Not worth living3 (2)7 (9)10 (12)
 Can’t answer now7 (5)5 (7)11 (14)
Cannot go outside, must stay home
 Difficult, but acceptable66 (49)63 (84)44 (56)
 Worth living, but just barely22 (16)26 (34)34 (43)
 Not worth living4 (3)5 (7)9 (11)
 Can’t answer now8 (6)6 (8)13 (16)
In severe untreatable pain most of the time
 Difficult, but acceptable32 (24)14 (18)10 (13)
 Worth living, but just barely39 (29)29 (39)18 (23)
 Not worth living16 (12)47 (63)52 (66)
 Can’t answer now12 (9)10 (13)19 (24)
In severe discomfort most of the time
 Difficult, but acceptable40 (29)24 (31)19 (24)
 Worth living, but just barely32 (23)39 (52)34 (43)
 Not worth living16 (12)28 (37)32 (40)
 Can’t answer now12 (9)9 (12)15 (19)
Kept alive by kidney dialysis
 Difficult, but acceptable41 (30)42 (56)30 (38)
 Worth living, but just barely34 (25)26 (34)22 (28)
 Not worth living5 (4)17 (23)33 (41)
 Can’t answer now19 (14)15 (20)14 (18)
Kept alive by breathing machines
 Difficult, but acceptable29 (21)14 (18)5 (6)
 Worth living, but just barely22 (16)18 (24)13 (17)
 Not worth living27 (20)58 (76)69 (87)
 Can’t answer now22 (16)11 (14)13 (16)
Full-time care required
 Difficult, but acceptable36 (26)26 (35)14 (17)
 Worth living, but just barely24 (17)27 (36)26 (32)
 Not worth living21 (15)39 (52)49 (61)
 Can’t answer now19 (14)7 (10)12 (15)
Cannot control bladder or bowels
 Difficult, but acceptable36 (26)20 (27)15 (19)
 Worth living, but just barely31 (22)40 (53)27 (34)
 Not worth living17 (12)32 (42)44 (55)
 Can’t answer now17 (12)8 (10)14 (18)
Live in nursing home permanently
 Difficult, but acceptable37 (27)27 (35)24 (30)
 Worth living, but just barely29 (21)28 (37)19 (24)
 Not worth living15 (11)34 (45)42 (53)
 Can’t answer now19 (14)11 (15)15 (19)
Emotional or financial burden on family
 Difficult, but acceptable30 (22)20 (27)9 (12)
 Worth living, but just barely25 (18)21 (28)23 (29)
 Not worth living25 (18)47 (63)47 (59)
 Can’t answer now20 (15)11 (15)21 (26)
  • Numbers expressed as percent (N).

  • a n=333 because of exclusion of 47 participants who were unsure of their serious illness treatment preference and two participants with missing end-of-life scenario responses.