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Death Stud. 2004 Jan;28(1):63-76.

Finding boundaries inside prison walls: case study of a terminally ill inmate.

Author information

  • Neuropsychiatric Institute and Hospital, University of California, Los Angeles, California, USA. mfoconnor@mednet.ucla.edu


The number of terminally ill prison inmates rises each year. Mental health professionals are uniquely prepared to provide therapy during the end-of-life process with their assessment, training, empathy, and communication skills. This case study examines the six-month therapy of one terminally ill inmate, using a client-centered approach. Drawing from existential therapy, the review of meaningful life events in the client's life clarifies current goals and the value of the current final stage of life. Ethical issues that arose are discussed, including pain management and compassionate release. Creative solutions to these ethical dilemmas were implemented through consideration of the overt and underlying goals of the inmate, the necessary rules and protocols of the prison, and in conjunction with professional codes of ethics.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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