Aging Prisoners' Treatment Selection: Does Prospect Theory Enhance Understanding of End-of-Life Medical Decisions?
Purpose: With the rapid growth in the older inmate population and the economic impact of end-of-life treatments within the cash-strapped prison system, consideration should be given to inmate treatment preferences. We examined end-of-life treatment preferences and days of desired life for several health scenarios among male inmates incarcerated primarily for murder. Design and Methods: Inmates over the age of 45 who passed a cognitive screening completed face-to-face interviews (N = 94; mean age = 57.7; SD = 10.68). Results: We found a 3-way interaction indicating that the effect of parole expectation on desire for life-sustaining treatment varied by race/ethnicity and treatment. Minority inmates desired cardiopulmonary resuscitation or feeding tubes only if they believed that they would be paroled. The model predicting desire for palliative care was not significant. Future days of desired life were related to prospective health condition, fear of death, negative affect, and trust in prison health care. Caucasian inmates expressed a desire for more days of life out of prison, whereas minority inmates did not differ in days of desired life either in or out of prison. Minorities wanted more days of life than Caucasians but only if they believed that they would be paroled. Implications: End-of-life care for the burgeoning inmate population is costly, and active life-sustaining treatments may not be desired under certain conditions. Specifically, expectation of parole but not current functional ability interacts with future illness condition in explaining inmates' desire for active treatment or days of desired life in the future.