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BMC Palliat Care. 2015 Mar 15;14:5. doi: 10.1186/s12904-015-0002-6. eCollection 2015.

Palliative sedation for terminally ill cancer patients in a tertiary cancer center in Shanghai, China.

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Department of Integrated Therapy, Fudan University Shanghai Cancer Center, #270, Dong'An Road, Shanghai, 200032 People's Republic of China ; Department of Oncology, Shanghai Medical College, Fudan University, #270, Dong'An Road, Shanghai, 200032 China.



There are a number of studies dedicated to characteristics of sedation, but these studies are mostly bound to western country practices. The aim of this study is to describe the characteristics of patients who suffered from cancer and who had been sedated until their death in Shanghai, China.


Retrospective medical data of 244 terminally ill cancer patients including 82 sedated patients were collected. Data collected included demographic characteristics, disease-related characteristics and details of the sedation.


In sedated cases, patients and/or caregivers gave the consent to start palliative sedation due to unmanageable symptoms. On average, sedation was performed 24.65(±1.78)hours before death. Agitated delirium and dyspnea were the most frequent indications for palliative sedation. There was no significant difference in survival time from admission till death between sedated and non-sedated patients (p > 0.05).


Palliative sedation is effective for reducing terminally ill cancer patients' suffering without hastening death. Prospective research is needed to determine the optimal conditions for Chinese patients including indications, decision making process, informed consent, cultural and ethical issues, type of sedation and drugs.


Agitated delirium; End of life; Palliative sedation; Survival; Symptom management; Terminally ill cancer patients

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