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Cancer Nurs. 2003 Oct;26(5):392-9.

Assisted dying and end-of-life symptom management.

Author information

  • University of Texas at Austin School of Nursing, 78701, USA. dvolker@mail.nur.utexas.edu


This qualitative study aimed to describe symptom management strategies oncology nurses have used in responding to and preventing requests of terminally ill patients with cancer for assisted dying (AD). The study involved secondary analysis of written stories from 36 nurses who agreed to describe their experiences with a request for assisted dying. Of the 36 nurses, 12 refused to support patient requests for AD and described their attempts to control the circumstances of dying by controlling symptoms. The remaining 24 nurses denied ever receiving requests for AD and described symptom management practices believed to prevent such requests. Data were analyzed using Denzin's process of interpretive interactionism. Two themes emerged from the participant's stories: alternative strategies for AD and prevention of requests for AD. The participants shared many examples of clinical interventions and other features of nursing responses to relieve or prevent suffering including physical, emotional, and spiritual care practices; comfort and medication management; and service as teacher-advocate. Both the nurses who had received requests for AD and those who had not used a variety of similar symptom management approaches to alleviate suffering. In doing so, these nurses upheld current standards of both their professional and specialty organizations.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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