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Palliat Med. 1996 Oct;10(4):307-12.

Perceptions of a 'good' death: a comparative study of the views of hospice staff and patients.

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School of Occupational Therapy and Physiotherapy, University of Southampton, UK.


The literature suggests that health professionals working in palliative care have developed an idealised concept of dying which has been labelled the 'good' death. This paper reports the results of a preliminary qualitative study which compared the concepts of a 'good' death used by patients and staff in a palliative care unit. Semistructured interviews designed to elicit perceptions of 'good' and 'bad' deaths were conducted with 18 patients and 20 health professionals. The transcribed interviews were content analysed. There were major differences between the views of patients and staff. The patients' descriptions of a "good' death were diverse and included: dying in one's sleep, dying quietly, with dignity, being pain free and dying suddenly. In comparison, staff characterised a "good' death in terms of adequate symptom control, family involvement, peacefulness and lack of distress, while a "bad' death was described as involving uncontrolled symptoms, lack of acceptance and being young. The findings suggest that patients and staff differ in their conceptualisations of a "good' death.

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