After evaluating advance directives for a year, the French National Center for Palliative and End-of-Life Care (“CNSPFV”) released a twofold survey* on February 6, 2018, commissioned by the French Market Research Institute “BVA” entitled “Advance Directives, in the opinion of the French and General Practitioners.

This survey reports, that 85% of the general practitioners and 60% of the French age 50 and over, are aware that an end-of-life law exists. The majority became aware of the 2016 law thanks to the media, demonstrating that it is gradually becoming known.

In this age group, 42% are aware that this end-of-life legislation provides for advance directives, but only 19% exactly know the details. Similarly, 85% of general practitioners are aware of legally established guidelines, but only 36% really know what it is about.

Most of the French who were surveyed (77%) are favorable to the possibility of drafting advance directives. Yet only 11% of those aged 50 and over (and 4% of general practitioners) have already written them. The majority who have drafted their advance directives are women (13%), people aged 65 and over (14%), people in poor health (22%) and people with a household income less than 1,500 €/month (16%).

In the age 65 and over group, the statistic of 14% having drafted advance directives appears relatively consistent, given the margin of error for polling, compared with the 14% of French who declared having done so, in an Ifop survey commissioned by VITA in October 2017 (which reported 15% in the 50-64 year-old group; and 17% for those 65 and over).

Among the others surveyed who have not written their advance directives, 32% say they are ready to do so, although 51% do not want to, and 6% remain undecided.

Among the reasons cited for not writing their directives, 47% say they trust their loved one to decide what will be best for them at the end of their life, and 33% don’t want to make those kinds of plans for the future. For the general practitioners, 44% say they don’t know what they will want when the time comes.

Among the general practitioners, 77% discuss the issue with their patients, 60% report being questioned directly by their patients, and 30% attest to being questioned more than in the previous years. For physicians who discuss advance directives with their patients, 61% think this is an easy topic to discuss and 85% felt that the conversation was not difficult.

In 2017, the French National Center for Palliative and End-of-Life Care “CNSPFV” led the first national public awareness campaign entitled “The end-of-life; shall we talk about it?Regional meetings were also organized to collect questions and feedback on advance directives. This year, they intend to do another campaign. A working group to evaluate the promotional efforts for advance directives has determined that citizens are beginning to focus on the issue. In addition, it is noteworthy that advance directives may initiate discussions on patients’ values, which may influence choices for their end-of-life care.

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* All representative of the French population: 201 General Practitioners were surveyed between January 8-12, 2018, and 964 French people aged 50 and over between January 19-23, 2018.