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J Pain Symptom Manage. 2004 Jun;27(6):523-32.

Consideration of hastening death among hospice patients and their families.

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Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine, Wake Forest University School of Medicine, Winston-Salem, North Carolina 27157-1087, USA.


The purpose of this study was to describe hospice social workers' perceptions of cases where hospice patients or their family members expressed a desire to hasten the patient's death. Surveys were mailed to hospice social workers (n=212) in two Southeastern states. Response rate was 36%. Of the 73 respondents, 56.2% had a patient and 26.1% had a patient's family member express a desire to hasten the patient's death. Most patients had a cancer diagnosis (70.4%) and were predominantly male (66.6%), white (94.4%), and were married/had a partner (66.7%). Poor quality of life (28.3%) and concern for suffering (28.3%) were the most common reasons reported for the request to hasten death. These data suggest that the desire for hastened death is not uncommon among hospice patients. Social workers perceive these requests to be related primarily to unmet needs.

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