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Am J Hosp Palliat Care. 2004 Mar-Apr;21(2):116-20.

Dying with dignity: the good patient versus the good death.

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University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Massachusetts, USA.


Death is a unique experience for each human being, yet there is tremendous societal pressure on a dying person to be a "goodpatient " while trying to experience the "good death. " These pressures shape patient, caregiver, and family choices in end-of-life situations. The purpose of this literature review was twofold: first, to develop an understanding of "dying with dignity" to enhance the end-of-life care received by dying patients, and second, to contribute to a concept analysis of dignity to improve the clarity and consistency of future research related to dignity in aging individuals. Articles pertaining to dying with dignity from the disciplines of nursing, medicine, ethics, psychology, and sociology were reviewed using a matrix method. A dichotomy surrounding dying with dignity emerged from this review. The definition of dignity in dying identifies not only an intrinsic, unconditional quality of human worth, but also the external qualities of physical comfort, autonomy, meaningfulness, usefulness, preparedness, and interpersonal connection. For many elderly individuals, death is a process, rather than a moment in time, resting on a need for balance between the technology of science and the transcendence of spirituality.

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