National Institutes of Health Clinical Center


Clinical Ethics

Ethics and Surrogate Decision Making

Research involving adults who are not able to consent is vital to improving clinical care for the conditions that affect them. In addition, many adult patients, especially those at the end of life, are not able to make their own decisions. Current practice is to rely on a patient-appointed or next-of-kin surrogate to make decisions for these individuals.

This practice is intended to promote at least 4 important goals:

  1. treat individuals consistent with their preferences and values;
  2. treat individuals in a way that promotes their clinical interests;
  3. respect individuals' preferences regarding how decisions are made for them; and
  4. protect the individuals family and loved ones.

Current work in the Department focuses on how well current practice promotes these goals and evaluates ways to better promote them.

Full Description (circa 2010) PDF Icon (28 KB)

NOTE: PDF documents require the free Adobe Reader.