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Palliat Med. 2008 Sep;22(6):702-10. doi: 10.1177/0269216308092285.

Population-based study of dying in hospital in six European countries.

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  • 1End-of-Life Care Research Group, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Brussels, Belgium.


This study examined the proportion of deaths taking place in hospitals in six European countries in relation to demographic, epidemiologic and healthcare factors. Retrospective analyses were performed on a database integrating death certificate data of all deaths in 2002 in Sweden and 2003 in Belgium, England, Scotland, the Netherlands and Wales (N = 891,780). Data were linked with regional healthcare statistics. Of all deaths, from 33.9% (the Netherlands) to 62.8% (Wales) occurred in hospital. Large country differences in hospital deaths were partly explained by the availability of care home and hospital beds. Differences between countries were strikingly large in older patients and cancer patients. Older patients had a higher probability of dying in hospital in Sweden, Scotland, England and Wales than in Flanders and, in particular, in the Netherlands. Cancer patients often died in hospitals in Sweden but less frequently so in the Netherlands and England. Country differences in the proportion of patients dying in hospital are only partly the result of differences in health care provision, and are in particular larger for certain patient categories, suggesting country-specific end-of-life practices in these categories. These findings can contribute to rational public health policies aimed at reducing hospital deaths.

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