A Survey of State Correctional Health Care Providers on Advance Care Planning: Opportunity for Collaboration With Corrections

Susan O’Conner-Von, Rebecca Shlafer, Paul Galchutt, Sara Kettering, Ali Bouterse, Rebecca Freese, Patricia Berry

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Prison populations are rapidly aging. Persons in prison age quicker and suffer more chronic illness and disability than their nonincarcerated peers, posing challenges to caring for prisoners who are chronically ill and dying. The goal of our study was to describe state prisons’ practices and policies addressing persons in prison with advanced chronic and life limiting illness through a national web-based survey of state-level prison health care professionals. In particular, we focused on advanced care planning, use of health care directives, decision-making about goals of care, including life sustaining treatments, The response rate was 22% for a sample size 152 completed surveys. The average age of respondent was 52 years; majority were female and Caucasian, and had worked in corrections more than 8 years. Nearly half were registered nurses. Most reported their prison did not have a dedicated end-of-life care program and only 11% offered a peer-care program. However, two-thirds indicated their facility provided the opportunity to designate a health care agent with physicians most likely responsible for facilitating completion of a health care directive. It is evident the care of persons aging and dying in prison is complex and requires further investigation addressing staff and prison population education, ethics guidelines for care, compassionate release, and advance care planning. This study suggests that hospice and palliative care professionals could collaborate with corrections professionals and national organizations to provide innovative education and support to enhance the humane care of this vulnerable population.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalAmerican Journal of Hospice and Palliative Medicine
StateAccepted/In press - 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2024.


  • advance care planning
  • chronic illness
  • collaboration
  • compassionate release
  • dying and death
  • hospice
  • palliative care
  • prison

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article


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