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J R Soc Med. 2002 Aug;95(8):386-90.

Relations between desire for early death, depressive symptoms and antidepressant prescribing in terminally ill patients with cancer.

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  • 1Our Lady's Hospice, Harold's Cross, Dublin 6W, Ireland.


Some patients with advanced cancer express the wish for an early death. This may be associated with depression. We examined the relations between depressive symptoms and desire for early death (natural or by euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide) in 142 terminally ill patients with cancer being cared for by a specialist palliative care team. They completed the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale questionnaire and answered four supplementary questions on desire for early death. Only 2 patients expressed a strong wish for death by some form of suicide or euthanasia. 120 denied that they ever wished for early release. The desire for early death correlated with depression scores. Depressive symptoms were common in the whole group but few were on antidepressant therapy. Better recognition and treatment of depression might improve the lives of people with terminal illness and so lessen desire for early death, whether natural or by suicide.

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