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January 22, 1997

Influence of Ethnicity on Advance Directives and End-of-Life Decisions

Author Affiliations

University of New Mexico Albuquerque, NM

JAMA. 1997;277(4):298-299. doi:10.1001/jama.1997.03540280036027

To the Editor.  —The importance of improving end-of-life decision making1 and understanding the differences in attitudes among ethnic groups toward end-of-life decisions have been increasing recognized.2 The New Mexico Elder Health Study provides some insights concerning advance care planning and preferences toward life-sustaining measures. One purpose of this comprehensive study is to compare self-reported understanding and completion of advance directives and individual preferences for life-sustaining measures in the event of a terminal illness. We surveyed randomly selected elderly ≥65 years) Hispanic (n=414) and non-Hispanic (n=469) whites living in Bernalillo County (Albuquerque and vicinity), New Mexico. The study was conducted using in-home, in-person interviews by trained personnel. "Hispanic" was defined using 3 criteria: Spanish surname, self-identification, and parential ethnicity.Many participants reported that they did not know what a living will and durable power of attorney are. Hispanics were less likely than non-Hispanic whites to correctly define a living