Applying Virtue Ethics: An Argument in Support of Advance Directive Cogitation Following the Death of a Spouse Open Access

Dreffs, Kora (Spring 2020)

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Advance directives are documents that help to articulate end-of-life wishes, but are not utilized as readily as they could be. There are certain factors that help to predict whether or not one may have an advance directive. Some of the most salient include age, quality of relationships with others, marital status, and race. In the format of an interview of institutionalized persons, this pilot study asked whether or not bereaved persons update, or complete for the first time, an advance directive document following the death of a spouse. No participants in this study reported completing or updating an advance directive document following the death of their spouse. Following this finding, the project pondered whether and how a virtue ethics framework can provide meaningful guidance and motivation for the recently bereaved to attend to these pressing end-of-life care decisions. Using a virtue ethics lens, this thesis will provide a few examples of possible pathways to empower bereaved spouses to confirm that their advance directive documents, or lack thereof, reflect their current values. Ultimately, this study revealed three avenues to operationalize the reexamination of advance directives. Those include hospice bereavement programs, legal offices, and funeral homes.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Advance Directives and This Project – 1

Chapter 2: Ethical Considerations of Advance Directives – 18

Chapter 3: Methods – 32

Chapter 4: Results – 39

Chapter 5: Discussion – 52

References – 69

Appendix A – 79

Appendix B – 80

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