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False memories for end-of-life decisions
journal contributionposted on 2008-03-01, 00:00 authored by Stefanie SharmanStefanie Sharman, M Garry, J Jacobson, E Loftus, P Ditto
Objective: To examine people’s false memories for end-of-life decisions. Design: In Study 1, older adults decided which life-sustaining treatments they would want if they were seriously ill. They made these judgments twice, approximately 12 months apart. At Time 2, older adults and their self-selected surrogate decision makers tried to recall the older adults’ Time 1 decisions. In Study 2, younger adults made treatment decisions twice, approximately 4 months apart. At Time 2, younger adults tried to recall their Time 1 decisions. Main Outcome Measures: Percentage of participants who falsely remembered that their original treatment decisions were the same as their current decisions. Results: In Study 1, older adults falsely remembered that 75% of their original decisions were the same as their current decisions; surrogates falsely thought that 86% of older adults’ decisions were the same. In Study 2, younger adults falsely remembered that 69% of their original decisions were the same as their current decisions. Conclusion: Age alone cannot account for people’s false memories of their end-of-life decisions; we discuss other mechanisms. The results have practical implications for policies that encourage people to make legal documents specifying their end-of-life treatment decisions.