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Death Stud. 2009 Aug;33(7):609-38. doi: 10.1080/07481180903011982.

Hope, life, and death: a qualitative analysis of dying cancer patients' talk about hope.

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  • 1Cancer Council Australia, Sydney and School of Psychology, University of Adelaide, Adelaide SA 5005, Australia.


Although deemed vital to patient well-being, hope in persons who are terminally ill is often thought to be problematic, particularly when centered on cure. As part of a study on end-of-life decision-making, we asked 28 patients with cancer, believed to be within weeks of their death, to talk about hope. Responses were transcribed and discursively analyzed, with 3 versions of hope, each of which connected hope and life, identified--hope as essential to, and for, life; hope, life, death, and others; and, hope/s changing during (or in) life. Hope for cure was common. Rather than death-denying, patients' hope appeared life-affirming, functioning to value patients, their lives, and connections with others.

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