The World Health Organization recommends that "palliative care should be integrated as a routine element of all Undergraduate Medical Education." However, the provision of training for medical undergraduates is variable; only 18% of 51 European countries have mandatory training in palliative medicine. EDUPALL is an ERASMUS+ funded international collaborative project to develop and pilot an undergraduate program for training in palliative medicine. The objective of this study was to critically review and revise current European Association for Palliative Care (EAPC) Recommendations for the Development of Undergraduate Curricula in Palliative Medicine and translating these into an updated curriculum document. Clinicians, academics, and researchers from Romania, Ireland, Germany, Austria, Spain, and the United Kingdom reviewed the EAPC recommendations using a variant of consensus methodology, Nominal Group Technique. From the updated document, four working-groups translated each recommendation into a specific learning objective, and developed associated learning outcomes, stratified by domain: attitude, cognition, and skills. The outcomes and objectives were organized into discrete teaching units and transferred into a curriculum template, identifying notional hours, teaching, and assessment strategies. To ensure quality control, the draft template was circulated to experts from 17 European countries, together with a brief survey instrument, for peer review purposes. All 17 reviewers returned overwhelmingly positive comments. There was large agreement that: the teaching units were logically organized; learning outcomes covered core training needs; learning objectives provided guidance for teaching sessions; learning modalities were appropriately aligned; and assessment strategies were fit for purpose. An updated and standardized curriculum was developed, which provides a platform for the sequential development of the next phases of the EDUPALL project.
As the spread of the novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) continues worldwide, health care systems are facing increased demand with concurrent health care provider shortages. This increase in patient demand and potential for provider shortages is particularly apparent for palliative medicine, where there are already shortages in the provision of this care. In response to the developing pandemic, our Geriatrics and Palliative (GAP) Medicine team formulated a 2-team approach which includes triage algorithms for palliative consults as well as acute symptomatic management for both patients diagnosed with or under investigation (PUI) for COVID-19. These algorithms provided a delineated set of guidelines to triage patients in need of palliative services and included provisions for acute symptoms management and the protection of both the patient care team and the families of patients with COVID-19. These guidelines helped with streamlining care in times of crisis, providing care to those in need, supporting frontline staff with primary-level palliative care, and minimizing the GAP team's risk of infection and burnout during the rapidly changing pandemic response.
IntroductionContext: In Portugal assisted death was approved in February 2020 by the Parliament, although the law is not yet in force.ObjectivesTo find out what doctors think about those practices.MethodsA link to a questionnaire was sent by email three times, at intervals of one week, to the doctors registered in the Northern Section of the Portuguese Medical Association, before the Parliamentary approval.ResultsThe questionnaire was returned by 1148 (9%) physicians. A minority of doctors would practice a form of assisted death under the present law or if it was legalized, but a higher percentage think that euthanasia should be legalized, and more would like to have that option if they themselves were in a terminal phase of a disease. Religion has a strong influence on the attitudes of doctors, so too does their contact with patients in a terminal phase, as doctors who deal with more patients with far advanced diseases are more likely to be unfavorable to assisted death. On the other hand, younger doctors are more in favor of these practices.ConclusionThe small percentage of questionnaires sent back is a weakness in this study and casts doubts on the generalizability of the conclusions. However, this is, so far, the best approximation to the opinions of Portuguese doctors on assisted death.
BACKGROUND: Family caregivers of patients on prolonged mechanical ventilation (PMV) may encounter challenges concerning medical decision-making besides witnessing patient suffering. Palliative care (PC) should be a good support for both patients and caregivers; however, for PMV families, PC is not always a choice through long companion time. This qualitative study clarifies family caregivers' burden of assisting patients on PMV and evaluates the need for PC information and support.
METHODS: Interviews were caregivers of patients on ventilator support for more than 60 days in five hospitals of the Taipei City Hospital System. Based on phenomenology, this study was conducted by using a semistructured questionnaire comprising three questions: (I) what was the most crucial moment of deciding to intubate? (II) how would you describe the quality of life of your ventilator-dependent family member? (III) what type of assistance do you expect from the PC team for your ventilator-dependent family member?
RESULTS: Twenty-one caregivers of patients on PMV in five hospitals of the Taipei City Hospital System agreed to participate in face-to-face interviews. The identified themes, including stressful decision-making, companion pain/discomfort, and unwillingness to accept PC, elucidated the difficulties experienced by caregivers when providing care.
CONCLUSIONS: Understanding family caregivers' experiences can enable physicians to improve communication with them, encourage the PC team to support them during surrogate decision-making for patients on PMV during critical moments, and enhance the overall PC service.
BACKGROUND: Shenzhen is a rapidly growing city in China with a population of over 11 million. The Hong Kong University-Shenzhen Hospital (HKU-SZH) was established in 2012 as a new model of publicly funded health care in mainland China. The clinical oncology center of the HKU-SZH was launched in 2013 which pledged to provide integrated palliative care for advanced cancer patients. This study aims to retrospectively analyze the quality of end-of-life care amongst patients with advanced cancer during their last hospitalization in the HKU-SZH.
METHODS: Consecutive patients with advanced solid cancer who passed away in the HKU-SZH from March 2013 to February 2016 were analyzed. Clinical information regarding cancer diagnosis, anticancer treatments, and the aggressiveness of the treatment during the last month of life was recorded. The discussions on the Do-Not-Resuscitate (DNR) order with family members were reviewed.
RESULTS: From March 2013 to February 2016, 441 patients with advanced solid cancer passed away in the HKU-SZH. A minority of them (9.3%, 41/441) received cytotoxic chemotherapy in the last month of life. Younger patients had high odds of receiving chemotherapy in their last month of life (OR 2.6, P=0.006). Those who received chemotherapy in their last month of life showed a trend of higher odds of admission to the intensive care unit (OR 2.94, P=0.08). The vast majority of family members / care providers (92.3%, 407/441) consented to the DNR order suggested by oncologists. The rate of DNR acceptance in this cohort was higher than previous reports from mainland China. Within HKU-SZH, the rate was higher in the oncology center than in other departments (OR 5.1, P<0.001). The use of chemotherapy in the last month of life did not associated with the acceptance of DNR (OR 1.3, P=0.23).
CONCLUSIONS: The integrated oncology service of the new public hospital HKU-SZH achieved a satisfactory level of end-of-life care in patients with advanced cancer. Further studies are warranted to improve the early integration of palliative care service and to investigate the impact of palliative care on costeffectiveness of oncology service.
Conversations surrounding end of life and death can be difficult or taboo for some, meaning that matters of organ and body donation are not widely discussed. To Donate or Not to Donate? That is the Question! is a comic developed to raise awareness and challenge common misconceptions about donation by encouraging the publics to engage in informed discussions about the different options available. This case study proposes graphic medicine as an alternative method of presenting donation information to a public audience, and illustrates how the comic medium can communicate body donation information in an accessible and engaging way.
To assess the face and content validity, acceptability and feasibility of a French version of the Children's Palliative Outcome Scale (CPOS).
Instruments in French used to measure outcomes in pediatric palliative care are lacking.
After forward-backward translation of the 12-item English CPOS to French, we conducted a qualitative pilot study. During semi structured interviews among children and parents, we used the CPOS, the Schedule for the Evaluation of Individual Quality of Life interview guide (SEIQoL) and the Quality of Life in Life-threatening Illness-Family Carer questionnaire (QOLLTI-F), in addition to three expert meetings with PLTs.
Fourteen children and adolescents (8-18 years) with life-limiting or life-threatening conditions cared for at home, in hospital or in respite care services, 19 parents, and 9 members of 4 pediatric liaison teams (PLTs) providing palliative care in a Belgian francophone region were included in the study. No families refused to participate. All children with verbal capacities chose to be interviewed in the presence of their parents and a PLT member. The children valued being given the opportunity to share their experiences. New QOL dimensions pertaining to social, emotional, and administrative health-care related issues were added to the original version of the 12-item CPOS, leading to a 22-item CPOS-2.
The CPOS-2 was perceived as relevant and easy to use by the principal stakeholders. Our study paves the way for a large-scale field study assessing its psychometric characteristics and its implementation in routine clinical care.
OBJECTIVE: Our aim was to synthesise the available evidence surrounding the structure, processes and outcomes of family meetings in the paediatric palliative care literature.
METHODS: We undertook an integrative literature review informed by the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses guidelines. The protocol was registered with PROSPERO (CRD42019138938). Electronic databases were systematically search using keywords and hand searching of reference articles and grey literature was also completed.
RESULTS: Ten empirical studies and five theoretical articles were included in the synthesis. Empirical studies provided more information about meeting structure, whereas theoretical articles more frequently described a desired process for planning and undertaking meetings. No articles identified how the success of a meeting was defined or made recommendations for doing so. Despite reports that family meetings are commonly occurring, few articles described outcomes from either the family or clinician perspectives.
CONCLUSIONS: Family meetings are essential communication strategies commonly used in paediatric palliative care, yet there is little guidance about how meetings should be organised and conducted, who should participate and when they should occur. The limited data available on the outcomes of family meetings suggest improvements are required to meet the needs of families. We present a framework that synthesises the available evidence. The framework offers an overview of the elements to consider when planning for and undertaking family meetings in paediatric palliative care and may be useful for both clinicians and researchers.
Dyspnea is a symptom commonly experienced by cancer patients that causes significant suffering, worsens throughout a patient's disease trajectory, and can be more difficult to manage than other symptoms. Assessment of dyspnea is best accomplished by a subjective description; physiologic measures are only weakly correlated with the patient's experience. It is important to consider a wide range of possible malignant and nonmalignant causes of dyspnea in cancer patients and to correct underlying causes where possible. For patients with refractory dyspnea, opioids are a safe and effective treatment. Benzodiazepines can be considered, but the evidence for their use is weak. Supplemental oxygen is beneficial if patients are hypoxemic, or if they have concurrent chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Nonpharmacologic strategies such as fan therapy, exercise programs, and pulmonary rehabilitation can also be beneficial. One important diagnosis to consider in all cancer patients is venous thromboembolism. Prompt evaluation and treatment are vital to improving symptoms and outcomes for patients. Although dyspnea is common and potentially debilitating in cancer patients, it can be effectively managed with a structured approach to rule out reversible causes while concurrently treating the patient using appropriate therapeutic strategies.
OBJECTIVES: To assess the effect of a systematic, fast-track transition from oncological treatment to specialised palliative care at home on symptom burden, to explore intervention mechanisms through patient and intervention provider characteristics and to assess long-term survival and place of death.
MEASURES: The effect of a systematic, fast-track transition from oncological treatment to specialised palliative care at home on patient symptom burden was studied in the Domus randomised clinical trial. Participants had incurable cancer and limited treatment options. The intervention was provided by specialised palliative home teams (SPT) based in hospice or hospital and was enriched with a psychological intervention for patient and caregiver dyad. Symptom burden was measured with Edmonton Symptom Assessment System (ESAS-r) at baseline, 8 weeks and 6 months follow-up and analysed with mixed models. Survival and place of death was analysed with Kaplan-Meier and Fisher's exact tests.
RESULTS: The study included 322 patients. Tiredness was significantly improved for the Domus intervention group at 6 months while the other nine symptom outcomes were not significantly different from the control group. Exploring the efficacy of intervention provider demonstrated significant differences in favour of the hospice SPT on four symptoms and total symptom score. Patients with children responded more favourably to the intervention. The long-term follow-up demonstrated no differences between the intervention and the control groups regarding survival or home deaths.
CONCLUSIONS: The Domus intervention may reduce tiredness. Moreover, the intervention provider and having children might play a role concerning intervention efficacy. The intervention did not affect survival or home deaths.
TRIAL REGISTRATION NUMBER: NCT01885637.
BACKGROUND: Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has a substantial mortality risk with increased rates in the elderly. We hypothesized that age is not sufficient, and that frailty measured by preadmission Palliative Performance Scale would be a predictor of outcomes. Improved ability to identify high-risk patients will improve clinicians' ability to provide appropriate palliative care, including engaging in shared decision-making about life-sustaining therapies.
AIM: To evaluate whether preadmission Palliative Performance Scale predicts mortality in hospitalized patients with COVID-19.
DESIGN: Retrospective observational cohort study of patients admitted with COVID-19. Palliative Performance Scale was calculated from the chart. Using logistic regression, Palliative Performance Scale was assessed as a predictor of mortality controlling for demographics, comorbidities, palliative care measures and socioeconomic status.
SETTING/PARTICIPANTS: Patients older than 18 years of age admitted with COVID-19 to a single urban public hospital in New Jersey, USA.
RESULTS: Of 443 admitted patients, we determined the Palliative Performance Scale score for 374. Overall mortality was 31% and 81% in intubated patients. In all, 36% (134) of patients had a low Palliative Performance Scale score. Compared with patients with a high score, patients with a low score were more likely to die, have do not intubate orders and be discharged to a facility. Palliative Performance Scale independently predicts mortality (odds ratio 2.89; 95% confidence interval 1.42-5.85).
CONCLUSIONS: Preadmission Palliative Performance Scale independently predicts mortality in patients hospitalized with COVID-19. Improved predictors of mortality can help clinicians caring for patients with COVID-19 to discuss prognosis and provide appropriate palliative care including decisions about life-sustaining therapy.
BACKGROUND: Guidelines recommend an early access to specialised palliative medicine services for patients with cancer, but studies have reported a continued underuse. Palliative care facilities deliver early care, alongside antineoplastic treatments, whereas hospice care structures intervene lately, when cancer-modifying treatments stop.
AIM: This review identified factors associated with early and late interventions of specialised services, by considering the type of structures studied (palliative vs hospice care).
DESIGN: We performed a systematic review, prospectively registered on PROSPERO (ID: CRD42018110063).
DATA SOURCES: We searched Medline and Scopus databases for population-based studies. Two independent reviewers extracted the data and assessed the study quality using Joanna Briggs Institute critical appraisal checklists.
RESULTS: The 51 included articles performed 67 analyses. Most were based on retrospective cohorts and US populations. The median quality scores were 19/22 for cohorts and 15/16 for cross-sectional studies. Most analyses focused on hospice care (n=37). Older patients, men, people with haematological cancer or treated in small centres had less specialised interventions. Palliative and hospice facilities addressed different populations. Older patients received less palliative care but more hospice care. Patients with high-stage tumours had more palliative care while women and patients with a low comorbidity burden received more hospice care.
CONCLUSION: Main disparities concerned older patients, men and people with haematological cancer. We highlighted the challenges of early interventions for older patients and of late deliveries for men and highly comorbid patients. Additional data on non-American populations, outpatients and factors related to quality of life and socioeconomic status are needed.
PURPOSE: As immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs) have transformed the care of patients with cancer, it is unclear whether treatment at the end of life (EOL) has changed. Because aggressive therapy at the EOL is associated with increased costs and patient distress, we explored the association between the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approvals of ICIs and treatment patterns at the EOL.
METHODS: We conducted a retrospective, observational study using patient-level data from a nationwide electronic health record-derived database. Patients had advanced melanoma, non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC; cancer types with an ICI indication), or microsatellite stable (MSS) colon cancer (a cancer type without an ICI indication) and died between 2013 and 2017. We calculated annual proportions of decedents who received systemic cancer therapy in the final 30 days of life, using logistic regression to model the association between the post-ICI FDA approval time and use of systemic therapy at the EOL, adjusting for patient characteristics. We assessed the use of chemotherapy or targeted/biologic therapies at the EOL, before and after FDA approval of ICIs using Pearson chi-square test.
RESULTS: There was an increase in use of EOL systemic cancer therapy in the post-ICI approval period for both melanoma (33.9% to 43.2%; P < .001) and NSCLC (37.4% to 40.3%; P < .001), with no significant change in use of systemic therapy in MSS colon cancer. After FDA approval of ICIs, patients with NSCLC and melanoma had a decrease in the use of chemotherapy, with a concomitant increase in use of ICIs at the EOL.
CONCLUSION: The adoption of ICIs was associated with a substantive increase in the use of systemic therapy at the EOL in melanoma and a smaller yet significant increase in NSCLC.
BACKGROUND: Patient shadowing is an experiential technique intended to enable those who shadow to understand care experience from the patient's point of view. It is used in quality improvement to bring about change that focuses on what is important for patients.
AIM: To explore the acceptability of patient shadowing for health-care staff, the impact of the experience and subsequent motivations to make improvements.
METHOD: A qualitative study with a diverse sample of 20 clinical and non-clinical health-care staff in different end-of-life settings. Data were analysed thematically.
RESULTS: Anticipated anxieties about shadowing did not materialize in participant accounts, although for some it was a deeply emotional experience, intensified by being with patients who were at the end of life. Shadowing not only impacted on participants personally, but also promoted better insights into the experience of patients, thus focusing their improvement efforts. Participants reported that patients and families who were shadowed welcomed additional caring attention.
CONCLUSION: With the right preparation and support, patient shadowing is a technique that engages and motivates health-care staff to improve patient-centred care.
To examine the association between physical activity and the reported use of complementary medicine by patients with breast and gynecological cancer referred or self-referred to a complementary/integrative medicine (CIM) consultation within a palliative care context.
Retrospective observational study analyzing the medical files of patients referred to a CIM consultation provided within a specialized integrative oncology clinic for demographic and cancer-related parameters; participation in physical exercise and activities; and current use of nonconventional medical practices. Quality of life (QoL) outcomes were assessed during the initial CIM consultation by using the Edmonton Symptom Assessment Scale (ESAS) tool.
Among the 162 patient files examined, participation in physical activities was reported in 152, of whom 83 were identified as active and 69 inactive according to the American Cancer Society guidelines. A logistic multivariate regression model showed that physical activity was associated with higher rates of herbal/dietary supplement use for noncancer-related outcomes (odds ratio = 7.21, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.6-32.46, p = 0.01); more frequently reported use of acupuncture for cancer-related outcomes (odds ratio = 7.79, 95% CI 1.93-31.5, p = 0.004); and lower ESAS scores for well-being (odds ratio = 0.77, 95% CI 1.0.65-0.92, p = 0.004), indicating better QoL.
Physical activity was found to be associated with a greater use of CIM (specifically herbal/dietary supplement use and acupuncture) in patients with breast and gynecological cancer during oncology treatment. Further research is needed to explore whether CIM use and physical activity are influenced by patients' health-belief models of care, and whether the CIM consultation can promote physical activity among these patients.
Introduction: For patients with brain metastases, palliative radiation therapy (RT) has long been a standard of care for improving quality of life and optimizing intracranial disease control. The duration of time between completion of palliative RT and patient death has rarely been evaluated.
Methods: A compilation of two prospective institutional databases encompassing April 2015 through December 2018 was used to identify patients who received palliative intracranial radiation therapy. A multivariate logistic regression model characterized patients adjusting for age, sex, admission status (inpatient versus outpatient), Karnofsky Performance Status (KPS), and radiation therapy indication.
Results: 136 consecutive patients received intracranial palliative radiation therapy. Patients with baseline KPS <70 (OR = 2.2; 95%CI = 1.6-3.1; p < 0.0001) were significantly more likely to die within 30 days of treatment. Intracranial palliative radiation therapy was most commonly delivered to provide local control (66% of patients) or alleviate neurologic symptoms (32% of patients), and was most commonly delivered via whole brain radiation therapy in 10 fractions to 30 Gy (38% of patients). Of the 42 patients who died within 30 days of RT, 31 (74%) received at least 10 fractions.
Conclusions: Our findings indicate that baseline KPS <70 is independently predictive of death within 30 days of palliative intracranial RT, and that a large majority of patients who died within 30 days received at least 10 fractions. These results indicate that for poor performance status patients requiring palliative intracranial radiation, hypofractionated RT courses should be strongly considered.
BACKGROUND: Although the Belgian assessment pathway for legal euthanasia requires the engagement of at least one psychiatrist, little is known about psychiatrists' attitudes towards euthanasia for adults with psychiatric conditions (APC). This study aims to gauge psychiatrists' attitudes towards and readiness to engage in euthanasia assessment and/or performance procedures in APC.
METHODS: This cross-sectional survey study was performed between November 2018 and April 2019. The survey was sent to a sample of 499 eligible psychiatrists affiliated to the Flemish Association for Psychiatry, a professional association that aims to unite and represent all psychiatrists working in Flanders, the Dutch-speaking, northern part of Belgium. The Association's members comprise an estimated 80-90% of all psychiatrists active in Flanders. Only psychiatrists working with APC (83% of the association's total membership) were included. Factorial Anova and Chi Square tests were performed to examine if and to what extent psychiatrists' backgrounds were associated with, respectively, their attitudes and their readiness to play a role in euthanasia procedures concerning APC.
RESULTS: One hundred eighty-four psychiatrists completed the questionnaire (response rate 40.2%); 74.5% agree that euthanasia should remain permissible for APC. However, 68.9% question some of the approaches taken by other physicians during the euthanasia assessment and only half consider euthanasia assessment procedures compatible with the psychiatric care relationship. Where active engagement is concerned, an informal referral (68%) or preliminary advisory role (43.8%) is preferred to a formal role as a legally required advising physician (30.3%), let alone as performing physician (< 10%).
CONCLUSION: Although three quarters agree with maintaining the legal option of euthanasia for APC, their readiness to take a formal role in euthanasia procedures appears to be limited. More insight is required into the barriers preventing engagement and what psychiatrists need, be it education or clarification of the legal requirements, to ensure that patients can have their euthanasia requests assessed adequately.
CONTEXT: Currently, systematic evidence of prevalence of clinically significant depressive symptoms in people with extremely short prognoses is not available to inform its global burden, assessment, and management.
OBJECTIVES: To determine the prevalence of clinically significant depressive symptoms in people with advanced life-limiting illnesses and extremely short prognoses (range of days to weeks).
METHODS: A systematic review and meta-analysis (random effects model) were performed (PROSPERO: CRD42019125119). MEDLINE, Embase, PsycINFO, CINAHL, and CareSearch were searched for studies (1994-2019). Data were screened for prevalence of clinically significant depressive symptoms (assessed using validated depression-specific screening tools or diagnostic criteria) of adults with advanced life-limiting illnesses and extremely short prognoses (defined by survival or functional status). Quality assessment was performed using the Joanna Briggs Institute Systematic Reviews Checklist for Prevalence Studies for individual studies, and Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development and Evaluation (GRADE) across studies.
RESULTS: Thirteen studies were included. The overall pooled prevalence of clinically significant depressive symptoms in adults with extremely short prognoses (n = 10 studies; extremely short prognoses: N = 905) using depression-specific screening tools was 50% (95%CI: 29%-70%; I2 = 97.6%). Prevalence of major and minor depression were 10% (95%CI: 4%-16%) and 5% (95%CI: 2%-8%), respectively. Major limitations included high heterogeneity, selection bias and small sample sizes in individual studies.
CONCLUSIONS: Clinically significant depressive symptoms were prevalent in people with advanced life-limiting illnesses and extremely short prognoses. Clinicians need to be proactive in the recognition and assessment of these symptoms to allow for timely intervention.