BACKGROUND: Little is known about how people with multiple sclerosis (MS) and their families comprehend advance care planning (ACP) and its relevance in their lives.

AIM: To explore under what situations, with whom, how, and why do people with MS and their families engage in ACP.

METHODS: We conducted a qualitative study comprising interviews with people living with MS and their families followed by an ethical discussion group with five health professionals representing specialties working with people affected by MS and their families. Twenty-seven people with MS and 17 family members were interviewed between June 2019 and March 2020. Interviews and the ethical discussion group were audio-recorded and transcribed verbatim. Data were analysed using the framework approach.

RESULTS: Participants' narratives focused on three major themes: (i) planning for an uncertain future; (ii) perceived obstacles to engaging in ACP that included uncertainty concerning MS disease progression, negative previous experiences of ACP discussions and prioritising symptom management over future planning; (iii) Preferences for engagement in ACP included a trusting relationship with a health professional and that information then be shared across services. Health professionals' accounts from the ethical discussion group departed from viewing ACP as a formal document to that of an ongoing process of seeking preferences and values. They voiced similar concerns to people with MS about uncertainty and when to initiate ACP-related discussions. Some shared concerns of their lack of confidence when having these discussions.

CONCLUSION: These findings support the need for a whole system strategic approach where information about the potential benefits of ACP in all its forms can be shared with people with MS. Moreover, they highlight the need for health professionals to be skilled and trained in engaging in ACP discussions and where information is contemporaneously and seamlessly shared across services.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0265861
Pages (from-to)e0265861
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number5 May
Publication statusPublished - 26 May 2022


  • Advance Care Planning
  • Family
  • Humans
  • Multiple Sclerosis/therapy
  • Palliative Care
  • Qualitative Research


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