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Palliat Med. 2005 Jun;19(4):343-50.

Voices of the terminally ill: uncovering the meaning of desire for euthanasia.

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Bradbury Hospice, A Kung Kok Shan Road, Shatin, New Territories, Hong Kong.


This study aimed to better understand the meaning of desire for euthanasia. An hermeneutic approach was undertaken using a purposively selected sample of advanced cancer patients who desired euthanasia while receiving palliative care. Unstructured interviews were conducted with six participants, which were audiotaped, transcribed and analysed. This approach allowed in-depth exploration and interpretation of the patients' lived experience. The findings illustrated a timeline from previous wellness to approaching death with five major themes: (1) reality, (2) perception, (3) anticipation, (4) desire and (5) holding environment. The desire for euthanasia is not confined to physical or psychosocial concerns relating to advanced cancer, but incorporates hidden existential yearnings for connectedness, care and respect, understood within the context of the patients' lived experience. Euthanasia requests cannot be taken at face value but require in-depth exploration of their covert meaning, in order to ensure that the patients' needs are being addressed adequately.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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