In the span of five years, my father, brother and mother died. I was close in both emotional and physical proximity to all three. In this role, I witnessed their struggle for dignity at the end of life in whatever manner was left to them. This was made more difficult as they shuffled through the hospital-nursing home-rehabilitation center-home health continuum of care. The patient enters one of those entry points, then seems to ricochet between them. This is an account of how illness and pain erased the life force from my loved ones while I watched helplessly from the sidelines. The emotional toll of seeing their decline was hard to calculate but what of the cost to the one who is dying? And yet each sought to carve some space to imprint their unique spark on their final days even when they had lost the ability to communicate coherently.
In this paper we, twin sisters, present a joint autoethnographic account of providing end of life care for our mum who had terminal cancer. Using the theoretical framing of performance from Goffman's theory of Dramaturgy, we present the findings from a joint autoethnography, focusing on two key themes: performing emotion work and performing what we conceptualise as ‘dignity work’. This paper's contributions are twofold. First, conceptually, this paper offers an important contribution to literature concerned with the sociology of illness, by critically engaging with Goffman's notion of frontstage and backstage performance, applied to the context of home care provided by family carers. The second contribution of this paper is methodological; we promote the under-utilised approach of a joint autoethnography and argue for its usefulness in the context of end of life care. We contend that the process of writing this paper was emotionally challenging, yet arriving at the final paper, which serves as a legacy of our mum, was cathartic. We argue for the usefulness of written diaries as a backstage arena through which other informal carers can think through, and come to terms with, experiences of death and dying.
BACKGROUND: Preserving personal dignity is an important part of palliative care. Generally, autonomy, independency and not being a burden to others are emphasised for preserving dignity. Dignity has not been studied yet from the perspective of the growing group of patients with a migration background living in Western countries.
AIM: To gain insight into (1) what patients - and their relatives - with a Turkish, Moroccan or Surinamese background, living in the Netherlands, in their last phase of life find important aspects of dignity, and (2) how care professionals can preserve and strengthen the dignity of these patients.
DESIGN: Qualitative thematic analysis of semi-structured interviews.
PARTICIPANTS: A total of 23 patients and 21 relatives with a Turkish, Moroccan or Surinamese background were interviewed.
RESULTS: For respondents dignity encompassed surrender to God's or Allah's will and meaningful relationships with others, rather than preserving autonomy. Surrender to God or Allah meant accepting the illness, the situation and performing religious practice. A meaningful relationship meant being assisted or cared for by family members and maintaining a social role. Professionals could preserve dignity by showing respect and attention; guaranteeing physical integrity, hygiene and self-direction; and indirect communication about diagnoses and prognoses.
CONCLUSIONS: Religion and appropriate involvement of family members are important aspects of dignity in the last phase of life, in addition to autonomy and independency. Care professionals need to take these factors into account in order to provide person-centred care.
La pandémie à COVID-19 touche particulièrement les personnes les plus âgées et expose à un risque de mortalité les plus fragiles. Des mesures de confinement, de distanciation sociale et d’isolement ont été mises en place pour limiter la propagation virale. S’il existe un rationnel clair pour réduire la contagiosité de l’infection par ce biais, les conséquences néfastes de cet isolement social, en particulier pour cette population hétérogène, âgée et fragile sont difficiles à appréhender. En particulier, la rupture avec les structures habituelles de support et de soutien à domicile ou en institution, mais aussi le risque d’une diminution de « l’empowerment » de la personne âgée par rapport à ses propres décisions de santé et de vie sociale, imposent une vigilance particulière pour éviter un risque d’âgisme sociétal. Il peut ainsi exister, en regard de cette population particulière, des conflits de valeurs entre protection individuelle et collective, d’une part, et respect de l’autonomie et de l’indépendance, d’autre part. Cet article propose une réflexion éthique de la question du confinement des personnes âgées à risque de fragilités, s’appuyant sur des principes de l’éthique médicale, pour ouvrir les pistes de réflexion qui permettent une approche positive de la vulnérabilité, garante du respect de la dignité de la personne et de l’équité dans l’accès aux soins.
As they age, many people are afraid that they might become a burden to their families and friends. In fact, fear of being a burden is one of the most frequently cited reasons for individuals who request physician aid in dying. Why is this fear so prevalent, and what are the issues underlying this concern? I argue that perceptions of individual autonomy, dependency, and dignity all contribute to the fear of becoming a burden. However, this fear is misplaced; common conceptions of these values should be re-framed and re-examined. Practices that support a more community-centered type of autonomy can be found in dependency and dignity. This paper offers some practical examples of how to address common end-of-life situations that may cause anxiety to patients who are worried about being a burden. These practices include discussing expectations, both for care and how the relationship among the participants might change, and modeling respectful caregiving behaviors. Most difficult of all, though, includes cultural and societal attitude changes so that people recognize the good in receiving care and get used to the idea that they do not need to do anything to be valuable.
Background: Palliative care is a modality of treatment that addresses physical, psychological and spiritual symptoms. Dignity therapy, a form of psychotherapy, was developed by Professor Harvey Chochinov, MD in 2005.The aim of the study was to assess the effect of one session of dignity therapy on quality of life in advanced cancer patients.
Methods: This was a randomized control trial of 144 patients (72 in each arm) randomized into group 1 (intervention arm) and group 2 (control arm). Baseline ESAS scores were determined in both arms following which group 1 received Dignity therapy while Group 2 received usual care only. Data collected was presented as printed (Legacy) documents to group 1 participants. These documents were a summary of previous discussions held. Post intervention ESAS scores were obtained in both groups after 6 weeks. Analysis was based on the intention to treat principle and descriptive statistics computed. The main outcome was symptom distress scores on the ESAS (summated out of 100 and symptom specific scores out of 10). The student T-test was used to test for difference in ESAS scores at follow up and graphs were computed for common cancers and comorbidities.
Results: Of the 144 (72 patients in each arm) patients randomized, 70% were female while 30% were male with a mean age of 50 years. At 6 weeks, 11 patients were lost to follow up, seven died and 126 completed the study. The commonly encountered cancers were gastrointestinal cancers (43%, p = 0.29), breast cancer (27.27% p = 0.71) and gynaecologic cancers (23% p = 0.35). Majority of the patients i.e. 64.3% had no comorbidities.
The primary analysis results showed higher scores for the DT group (change in mean = 1.57) compared to the UC group (change in mean = - 0.74) yielding a non-statistically significant difference in change scores of 1.44 (p = 0.670; 95% CI - 5.20 to 8.06). After adjusting for baseline scores, the mean (summated) symptom distress score was not significant (GLM p = 0.78). Dignity therapy group showed a trend towards statistical improvement in anxiety (p = 0.059). The largest effects seen were in improvement of appetite, lower anxiety and improved wellbeing (Cohen effect size 0.3, 0.5 and 0.31 respectively).
Conclusion: Dignity therapy showed no statistical improvement in overall quality of life. Symptom improvement was seen in anxiety and this was a trend towards statistical significance (p = 0.059).
Cette réédition totalement revue et enrichie contribue à une appropriation des évolutions législatives portées par la loi du 2 février 2016 créant de nouveaux droits en faveur des malades et des personnes en fin de vie (droits de la personne, sédation profonde et continue, souffrance, directives anticipées opposables, etc.). Les conditions du mourir interrogent à la fois nos obligations sociales et les exigences du soin. Alors que s'instaurent une nouvelle culture de la fin de vie, de nouvelles solidarités, quelles seront les incidences sur les pratiques professionnelles au service de la personne malade et de ses proches ? Ces situations toujours singulières, irréductibles aux débats généraux portant sur "la mort dans la dignité" justifient une exigence de clarification, la restitution d’expériences et la transmission de savoirs vrais.
Dans une approche pluridisciplinaire, cet ouvrage associe les meilleures compétences pour proposer une synthèse rigoureuse et complète des réflexions et des expériences au cœur des débats les plus délicats de notre société. Il constitue une indispensable référence à destination des professionnels mais tout autant d'un large public, la concertation nationale sur la fin de vie ayant fait apparaître un important besoin d'informations dans ces domaines à la fois intimes et publics.
Cette "interruption volontaire de vieillesse", c'est avant tout un témoignage touchant pour comprendre le choix et le combat de Jacqueline Jencquel afin d'avoir le droit de terminer sa vie dignement et d'en choisir les conditions. Mourir avant d'être déjà à moitié mort, c'est la vision que défend une femme qui a passionnément aimé la vie et la liberté.
Cet ouvrage offre une analogie de la vie comme une oeuvre littéraire ou d’art, achevée quand on la juge accomplie. Se fondant sur le témoignage de personnes ayant le moyen de mourir volontairement, le philosophe questionne leur conception de la dignité, d’une vie digne d’être vécue et propose une réflexion sur la mort et l’exercice de la liberté.
Introduction: Dignity Therapy (DT) is a brief, individualized, narrative psychotherapy developed to reduce psychosocial and existential distress, and promote dignity, meaning, and hope in end of life patients. Previous studies have shown that DT was effective in reducing anxiety and depression, and improving dignity-related distress. However, less is known about its efficacy on spiritual well-being. The aim of this study is to contribute to the existing literature by investigating the effects of DT on specific dimensions of spiritual well-being, demoralization and dignity-related distress in a sample of terminally ill patients.
Methods: A randomized, controlled trial was conducted with 64 terminally ill patients who were randomly assigned to the intervention group (DT + standard palliative care) or the control group (standard palliative care alone). The primary outcome measures were Meaning, Peace, and Faith whereas the secondary outcome measures were (loss of) Meaning and purpose, Distress and coping ability, Existential distress, Psychological distress, and Physical distress. All measures were assessed at baseline (before the intervention), 7-10 and 15-20 days after the baseline assessment. The trial was registered with ClinicalTrials.gov (Protocol Record NCT04256239).
Results: The MANOVA yielded a significant effect for the Group X Time interaction. ANOVA with repeated measures showed a significant effect of time on peace and a significant Group X Time interaction effect on peace. Post hoc comparisons revealed that, while there was a decrease in peace from pre-treatment to follow-up and from post-treatment to follow-up in the control group, there was no such trend in the intervention group. Discussion: This study provides initial evidence that patients in the DT intervention maintained similar levels of peace from pre-test to follow-up, whereas patients in the control group showed a decrease in peace during the same time period. We did not find significant longitudinal changes in measures of meaning, faith, loss of meaning and purpose, distress and coping ability, existential, psychological and physical distress. The findings of our study are of relevance in palliative care and suggest the potential clinical utility of DT, since they offer evidence for the importance of this intervention in maintaining peace of mind for terminally ill patients.
BACKGROUND: Dignity is an inherent value in palliative care, but understanding dignity among people living with and hospitalized for incurable esophageal cancer has not been explored.
OBJECTIVE: The aim of this study was to empirically explore the meaning of dignity in people hospitalized with incurable esophageal cancer.
METHODS: A qualitative hermeneutic approach, inspired by Gadamer, guided the research process and interpretation of the transcribed interviews. Eighteen patients participated in the study.
RESULTS: The meaning of dignity was revealed as reverential response in care relationships and eating as an undignifying activity. A balance of the healthcare system's framework with the lifeworld of the patient was significant in preserving dignity and gave patients a sense of reverent response. Patients were unable to eat ordinary daily meals, which affected their perception of own body and identity, including interactions with others. The resulting bodily changes and social consequences were of crucial importance to the perceived dignity.
CONCLUSIONS: A dialogical and understanding approach is significant in making the patient feel worthy, consequently helping to uphold a sense of dignity. The changing and decaying body due to eating difficulties bears witness to illness, altering the individual's sense of self, in turn threatening the dignity of identity.
IMPLICATION FOR PRACTICE: The care should be based on a reverential response based on the patients' lifeworld. In doing so, storytelling might be a way. Palliative care for these people needs to stress that patients share other aspects of life that is not totally dominated by their illness, inability to eat, and unrecognizable body.
Research results suggest that illness can undermine patients' dignity and that dignity can be understood as an experience formed in communion with others. The aim of this study was, therefore, to illuminate the meanings of lived experiences of dignity as an intersubjective phenomenon from the perspective of dyads in palliative care. The authors analyzed transcripts from interviews with nine dyads using a phenomenological-hermeneutical method. Within the contexts of the dyadic relationship and the dyadic-health care professional relationship, the authors' interpretation revealed two meanings based on the participants' lived experiences: "Being available," related to responding and being responded to in terms of answerability and we-ness, and "Upholding continuity," linked to feeling attached through the maintenance of emotional bonds and being connected through upholding valued activities and qualities in daily living. The authors further reflected on the meanings in relation to philosophically grounded concepts such as presence, objectification, dependence, and dyadic body.
Fifteen years ago, Ruth Macklin shook the medical community with her claim in the BMJ that dignity is a useless concept. Her essay provoked a storm of reactions. What have we learned from the debate? In this article I analyse the responses to her essay and the following debate to investigate whether she was right that “[d]ignity is a useless concept in medical ethics and can be eliminated without any loss of content.” While some of the commentaries misconstrued her claim and argue against strawmen, others forcefully maintained that the concept of dignity has functions beyond “respect for persons and their autonomy.” One important point that came out of the debate is that dignity is a generic concept that covers more ground than “respect for persons or their autonomy.” In particular, dignity seems to have a wide range of protective functions as well as having reciprocal, relational, and social aspects. Dignity appears more attributional and norm-formative than respect for persons and autonomy. While the claim that dignity is unclear, vague, and can be used sloganistically seems highly relevant, it is argued that this vagueness fulfils important functions in ethics. Moreover, dismissing dignity because of its lack of clarity has implications for “respect for persons” and “autonomy,” which are also used vaguely and sloganistically. No doubt medical ethics should use as a clear concept as the context requires. Nonetheless, dignity still seems to be a widely used generic concept in ethical debates and doing as much ethical work as “respect for persons” or “respect for autonomy.” Therefore, the death of dignity seems to be greatly exaggerated.
In 2017 and 2018, the English courts were asked to decide whether continued life-sustaining treatment was in the best interests of three infants: Charlie Gard, Alfie Evans and Isaiah Haastrup. Each infant had sustained catastrophic, irrecoverable brain damage. Dignity played an important role in the best interests assessments reached by the Family division of the High Court in each case. Multiple conceptions of dignity circulate, with potentially conflicting implications for infants such as Charlie, Alfie and Isaiah. The judgements do not explicate the conceptions of dignity upon which they rely. This article reconstructs the conceptions of dignity invoked in these judgements, finding that a broadly Kantian, agential conception dominates, under which human dignity requires the prospect of agency. This conception is situated within the broader body of thought on dignity, and the potentially adverse implications of applying the reconstructed conception in best interests assessments for infants with severely restricted consciousness are discussed.
Dignity is a core topic within palliative care, and thus, it is important to get a detailed assessment of healthcare providers’ (HCPs) perspectives on this subject. This study aimed to explore various HCPs’ perspectives on end-of-life patients’ dignity by collecting different testimonies about what dignity entails and which strategies HCPs use to maintain patients’ dignity. A sample of 104 participants was interviewed using two open questions to collect qualitative data. Content analysis was performed to identify the central themes among answers. Regarding the first question (“What comes to your mind when I say “Dignity” in relation to your patients?”), nine themes emerged. The majority sampled stated that dignity means respecting the patient by considering him/her as a person in his/her entirety. Two other themes frequently emerged: “Respect the patient’s will/wishes/needs” and “Self-determination/Self-expression.” Concerning the second question (“Which strategies do you use to maintain patients’ dignity?”), seven themes emerged. The “Caring skills” theme was most frequently identified, followed by “Empathic skills” and “Professional strategies.” This study has enabled a better understanding of HCPs’ perspectives on end-of-life patients’ dignity. Through the interviews, HCPs were given an opportunity to reflect on dignity, possibly helping them improve their understanding of their patients’ conditions and promote higher quality of care.
BACKGROUND: Safeguarding the dignity of patients at the end of life is a key objective in palliative care practice in Denmark. The concept of dignity and how it influences a dying persons' quality of life is thus influential in end-of-life care at hospices. However, what is meant by dignity, how dignity is understood and practiced by healthcare professionals in Danish hospices, and whether this relates to the patients' understandings and needs concerning dignity remains unanswered.
AIM: The aim of this study was to explore and improve dignity in care through an action research study with patients and hospice staff at two different hospices in Denmark. This was done by exploring how patients and healthcare professionals expressed their understandings and needs concerning dignity and involving participants in the research process with the goal of improving dignity in care.
METHODS: An action research method with reflection-of-praxis and action-in-praxis was applied. It was combined with methods of semi-structured individual interviews with twelve patients, five staff and nine focus-group interviews with staff.
RESULTS: Three themes emerged from the analysis of data. The themes were as follows: (1) being understood, (2) contributing and (3) holistic care. Deeper analysis indicated that staff understandings of dignity mostly focused on preserving patients' autonomy, whereas patients expressed needs for relational and spiritual aspects of dignity. Staff were mostly concerned about preserving patients' autonomy when providing dignity in care, however, through the action-in-praxis they increased their awareness on their own praxis and patients' needs and understanding concerning dignity. The theoretical model on dignity presented in the study also worked as a map to guide staffs' reflections on dignity in praxis and facilitated a broader focus on supporting and caring for patients' dignity in care. We believe this study has improved dignity in care at the two hospices involved in the study.
Purpose: The aim of the study was to determine the effectiveness of dignity therapy for end-of-life patients with cancer.
Methods: This study used a quasi-experimental study design with a nonrandomized controlled trial. Dignity therapy was used as an intervention in the experimental group, and general visit was used in the control group. Thirty end-of-life patients with cancer were recruited, with 16 in the experimental group and 14 in the control group. Outcome variables were the participants' dignity, demoralization, and depression. Measurements were taken at the following time points: pre-test (before intervention), post-test 1 (the 7th day), and post-test 2 (the 14th day). The effectiveness of the interventions the two groups was measured using the generalized estimating equation, with the p value set to be less than 0.05.
Results: After dignity therapy, the end-of-life patients with cancer reflected increased dignity significantly [ß = -37.08, standard error (SE) = 7.43, Wald 2 = 24.94, p < 0.001], whereas demoralization (ß = -39.55, SE = 6.42, Wald 2 = 37.95, p < 0.001) and depression (ß = -12.01, SE = 2.17, Wald 2 = 30.71, p < 0.001) were both reduced significantly.
Conclusion: Clinical nurses could be adopting dignity therapy to relieve psychological distress and improve spiritual need in end-of-life patients with cancer. Future studies might be expanded to looking at patients vis-à-vis end-of-life patients without cancer to improve their psychological distress. These results provide reference data for the care of end-of-life patients with cancer for nursing professionals.
Background: Some evidence suggests the wish to hasten death is related to poor health-related quality of life. Deficits in perceived dignity and self-efficacy are risk factors for wish to hasten death that also impact health-related quality of life.
Aim: To compare perceived health-related quality of life, dignity and self-efficacy in patients with advanced cancer who either do (case group) or do not (control group) express a wish to hasten death. Cases and controls were matched on sociodemographic and functional characteristics.
Design: A comparative cross-sectional study.
Participants: A total of 153 adult patients with advanced cancer were assessed for wish to hasten death using the Desire for Death Rating Scale. Scores >= 1 indicate some degree of wish to hasten death (case group, n = 51), and score = 0 implies no wish to hasten death (control group, n = 102). Assessments included health-related quality of life using the European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer Quality-of-Life Core 15-Item Palliative Questionnaire, perceived loss of dignity using the Patient Dignity Inventory and self-efficacy using the General Self-Efficacy Scale.
Results: Patients with a wish to hasten death had worse emotional functioning (p < 0.001), greater perceived loss of dignity (p < 0.001) and lower self-efficacy (p = 0.001). There was no difference in most physical symptoms. Perceived overall health-related quality of life was significantly worse for those with a clinically relevant wish to hasten death (p = 0.023) and marginally worse for the case group than the control group (p = 0.052).
Conclusion: Patients with wish to hasten death showed lower perceived dignity, self-efficacy and emotional quality of life than patients without wish to hasten death without necessarily perceiving worse physical symptoms.
OBJECTIVES: With people living longer, palliative care may be required for lengthier periods of time. This puts demands on healthcare organizations to provide optimal palliative care. Maintaining dignity is central for any person's health and quality of life, but especially for a person with palliative care needs. Dignity-conserving care needs to be evaluated to increase knowledge about outcomes and how to assess these. The purpose of this integrative review was to identify outcomes studied within dignity-conserving care and how these have been operationalized.
METHODS: An integrative review was conducted in 26 quantitative or mixed-method studies and study protocols. Thematic synthesis with an abductive approach was used for analysis.
RESULTS: Seven themes of studied outcomes were identified, as well as four cluster themes: themes related to Illness-Related Concerns, themes related to the Dignity-Conserving Repertoire, themes related to the Social Dignity Inventory, and themes regarding Overarching Dignity Issues. Most outcomes studied dealt with Illness-Related Concerns within the themes of "Performance, symptoms and emotional concerns" and "End-of-life and existential aspects". Themes linked to the Social Dignity Inventory had the lowest number of outcomes studied. Outcomes regarding overarching dignity issues such as "Dignity-related distress" and "Quality of life" were common. However, the results lacked concrete communication outcomes.
SIGNIFICANCE OF RESULTS: The results will underpin future research in which dignity-conserving care is implemented and evaluated, and contribute to the provision of evidence-based palliative care. A greater focus on outcomes within cluster themes related to the Dignity-Conserving Repertoire and the Social Dignity Inventory is needed, as is more focus on communication outcomes.