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J Pain Symptom Manage. 2004 Jan;27(1):44-52.

Desire for death and requests to hasten death of Japanese terminally ill cancer patients receiving specialized inpatient palliative care.

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1
Seirei Hospice, Seirei Mikatabara Hospital, Shizuoka, Japan.

Abstract

A desire for death and requests to hasten death are major topics in recent medical literature. The aim of this study was to clarify the bereaved family-reported incidence and reasons for desiring death and requests to hasten death during the whole course of terminally ill cancer patients receiving specialized palliative care in Japan. A nationwide questionnaire survey of 500 primary caregivers yielded a total of 290 responses (effective response rate, 62%). Sixty-two (21%) families reported that the patients had expressed a desire to die, and 29 (10%) families reported that the patients had requested that death be hastened. The major reasons for desiring death and requests to hasten death were: burden on others, dependency, meaninglessness, unable to pursue pleasurable activities, general malaise, pain, dyspnea, concerns about future distress, and wish to control the time of death. No intolerable physical symptoms were reported in 32% and 28% of the patients who desired death and those who requested to hasten death, respectively. Concerns about future distress and wishes to control the time of death were significantly more likely to be listed as major reasons for desiring death in patients who requested that death be hastened than those who did not. A desire for death and requests to hasten death are not uncommon in terminally ill cancer patients receiving specialized inpatient palliative care in Japan. More intensive strategies for general malaise, pain, and dyspnea near the end of life, and for feelings of being a burden, meaninglessness, and concerns about future distress would alleviate the serious suffering of patients with a desire for death. However, some patients with a strong wish to control the time of death might not receive benefit from conventional palliative care.

PMID:
14711468
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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