End-of-Life Decisions

Ellen L. Csikai

in Encyclopedia of Social Work

Published by NASW Press and Oxford University Press

Published online June 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780199975839 | DOI:

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  • Care of the Elderly
  • Couple and Family Social Work
  • Practical Ethics


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As medical technology advances producing the ability to prolong life almost indefinitely, individuals and families are asked to make increasingly complex choices about what treatments best correspond to their conceptions of how they wish to die. These decisions create a need for attention to medical aspects as well as psychosocial consequences. Social workers play pivotal roles in ensuring access to needed information and resources and in safeguarding individuals' rights to self-determination in end-of-life decisions. This entry discusses issues related to advance care planning, the process of end-of-life decision making, and social work roles with individuals, families, and health care providers.

Keywords: end-of-life; decision making; life-sustaining treatments; advance care planning; advance directives; living wills; hospice; palliative care; euthanasia; assisted suicide; organ donation; terminal illness

Article.  4243 words. 

Subjects: Care of the Elderly ; Couple and Family Social Work ; Practical Ethics

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