In search of a good death: observations of patients, families, and providers.
Despite a recent increase in the attention given to improving end-of-life care, our understanding of what constitutes a good death is surprisingly lacking. The purpose of this study was to gather descriptions of the components of a good death from patients, families, and providers through focus group discussions and in-depth interviews. Seventy-five participants-including physicians, nurses, social workers, chaplains, hospice volunteers, patients, and recently bereaved family members-were recruited from a university medical center, a Veterans Affairs medical center, and a community hospice. Participants identified six major components of a good death: pain and symptom management, clear decision making, preparation for death, completion, contributing to others, and affirmation of the whole person. The six themes are process-oriented attributes of a good death, and each has biomedical, psychological, social, and spiritual components. Physicians' discussions of a good death differed greatly from those of other groups. Physicians offered the most biomedical perspective, and patients, families, and other health care professionals defined a broad range of attributes integral to the quality of dying. Although there is no "right" way to die, these six themes may be used as a framework for understanding what participants tend to value at the end of life. Biomedical care is critical, but it is only a point of departure toward total end-of-life care. For patients and families, psychosocial and spiritual issues are as important as physiologic concerns.
Steinhauser, KE; Clipp, EC; McNeilly, M; Christakis, NA; McIntyre, LM; Tulsky, JA
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