This book examines the ethics of end of life care, focusing on the kinds of decisions that are commonly made in clinical practice. Specific attention is paid to the intensification of treatment for terminal symptoms, particularly pain relief, and the withdrawal and withholding of care, particularly life-saving or life-prolonging medical care. The book is structured into three sections. The first section contains essays examining end of life care from the perspective of moral theory and theology. The second sets out various conceptual terms and distinctions relevant to decision-making at the end of life. The third section contains chapters that focus on substantive ethical issues. This format not only provides for a comprehensive analysis of the ethical issues that arise in the context of end of life care but allows readers to effectively trace the philosophical, theological and conceptual underpinnings that inform their specific interests. This work will be of interest to scholars working in the area as well as clinicians, specialists and healthcare professionals who encounter these issues in the course of their practice.
Background/objectives: Opioids relieve symptoms in terminal care. We studied opioid underuse in long-term care facilities, defined as residents without opioid prescription despite pain and/or dyspnoea, 3 days prior to death.
Design and setting: In a proportionally stratified randomly selected sample of long-term care facilities in six European Union countries, nurses and long-term care facility management completed structured after-death questionnaires within 3 months of residents’ death.
Measurements: Nurses assessed pain/dyspnoea with Comfort Assessment in Dying with Dementia scale and checked opioid prescription by chart review. We estimated opioid underuse per country and per symptom and calculated associations of opioid underuse by multilevel, multivariable analysis.
Results: nurses’ response rate was 81.6%, 95.7% for managers. Of 901 deceased residents with pain/dyspnoea reported in the last week, 10.6% had dyspnoea, 34.4% had pain and 55.0% had both symptoms. Opioid underuse per country was 19.2% (95% confidence interval: 12.9–27.2) in the Netherlands, 25.2% (18.3–33.6) in Belgium, 29.3% (16.9–45.8) in England, 33.7% (26.2–42.2) in Finland, 64.6% (52.0–75.4) in Italy and 79.1% (71.2–85.3) in Poland (p < 0.001). Opioid underuse was 57.2% (33.0–78.4) for dyspnoea, 41.2% (95% confidence interval: 21.9–63.8) for pain and 37.4% (19.4–59.6) for both symptoms (p = 0.013). Odds of opioid underuse were lower (odds ratio: 0.33; 95% confidence interval: 0.20–0.54) when pain was assessed.
Conclusion: Opioid underuse differs between countries. Pain and dyspnoea should be formally assessed at the end-of-life and taken into account in physicians orders.
BACKGROUND: Research requires high-quality ethical and governance scrutiny and approval. However, when research is conducted across different countries, this can cause challenges due to the differing ethico-legal framework requirements of ethical boards. There is no specific guidance for research which does not involve non-medicinal products.
AIM: To describe and address differences in ethical and research governance procedures applied by research ethics committees for non-pharmaceutical palliative care studies including adult participants in collaborative European studies.
DESIGN: An online survey analysed using descriptive statistics.
SETTING/PARTICIPANTS: Eighteen principal investigators in 11 countries conducting one of three European-funded studies.
RESULTS: There was variation in practice including whether ethical approval was required. The time to gain full approvals differed with the United Kingdom having governance procedures that took the longest time. Written consent was not required in all countries nor were data safety monitoring committees for trials. There were additional differences in relation to other data management issues.
CONCLUSION: Researchers need to take the differences in research approval procedures into account when planning studies. Future research is needed to establish European-wide recommendations for policy and practice that dovetail ethical procedures and enhance transnational research collaborations.
OBJECTIVES: The number of older people dying in long-term care facilities (LTCFs) is increasing globally, but care quality may be variable. A framework was developed drawing on empirical research findings from the Palliative Care for Older People (PACE) study and a scoping review of literature on the implementation of palliative care interventions in LTCFs. The PACE study mapped palliative care in LTCFs in Europe, evaluated quality of end-of-life care and quality of dying in a cross-sectional study of deceased residents of LTCFs in 6 countries, and undertook a cluster-randomized control trial that evaluated the impact of the PACE Steps to Success intervention in 7 countries. Working with the European Association for Palliative Care, a white paper was written that outlined recommendations for the implementation of interventions to improve palliative and end-of-life care for all older adults with serious illness, regardless of diagnosis, living in LTCFs. The goal of the article is to present these key domains and recommendations.
DESIGN: Transparent expert consultation.
SETTING: International experts in LTCFs.
PARTICIPANTS: Eighteen (of 20 invited) international experts from 15 countries participated in a 1-day face-to-face Transparent Expert Consultation (TEC) workshop in Bern, Switzerland, and 21 (of 28 invited) completed a follow-up online survey.
METHODS: The TEC study used (1) a face-to-face workshop to discuss a scoping review and initial recommendations and (2) an online survey.
RESULTS: Thirty recommendations about implementing palliative care for older people in LTCFs were refined during the TEC workshop and, of these, 20 were selected following the survey. These 20 recommendations cover domains at micro (within organizations), meso (across organizations), and macro (at national or regional) levels addressed in 3 phases: establishing conditions for action, embedding in everyday practice, and sustaining ongoing change.
CONCLUSIONS AND IMPLICATIONS: We developed a framework of 20 recommendations to guide implementation of improvements in palliative care in LTCFs.
The purpose of this article is to analyze the main medical, legal, and ethical issues and challenges of euthanasia in the digital age. The methods that were used in this study are historical, logical, empirical, as well as comparative legal method for comparison of laws and practices of the EU and post-Soviet countries, including Ukraine. This choice determined by the fact that both groups of countries have common features and relations, while the features of their development affect approaches to regulating such sensitive and potentially open to abuse problems as euthanasia. There is no final legal answer as to whether to legalize, decriminalize or prohibit euthanasia in any of its forms. The features and legal terms of active and passive, voluntary and non-voluntary euthanasia and assisted suicide, especially for psychiatric and minor patients were researched, as well as conflicting arguments, which include individual autonomy, right to choose, the opportunity to get rid of suffering, as well as undermining the practice of palliative care, abuse in cases of vulnerable and dependent patients, moral burden on the doctors. The issue of control of the practice of euthanasia is complicated, given the extent to which it is possible to obtain informed consent, establish criteria for suffering and hopelessness, check the persistence, conviction and validity of requests for euthanasia, especially in the digital era. The potential legislation and judicial practice should provide for strict and effective guarantees, respect for the beliefs of each person and the right not to participate in any contentious practices, the balance of human rights and social values.
This paper addresses the stories of volunteers in hospice and palliative care (HPC) from eight European countries. The aims of the paper are to explore the experiences of volunteers in HPC from their insider perspective, to understand why volunteers choose to work in this field and to understand what it means to them to be involved in palliative care in this way. Stories were collected by the European Association for Palliative Care (EAPC) Task Force for Volunteering contacts in each of the eight countries. The majority of stories (n = 32) came from volunteers involved in different settings including adult patient's homes, hospices, hospitals and care homes. Twenty volunteers were female, six were male, and ten did not give their gender. Stories were translated into English, and a qualitative framework analysis was performed. Volunteers were asked two questions: 'What do you do as a volunteer?' 'What does volunteering mean to you?' Three themes were identified from the data: (i) What volunteers do (ii) How volunteers approach their work and (iii) What working in HPC means to volunteers. The analysis revealed that common approaches to addressing and describing HPC volunteering in terms of tasks and roles could be expanded. To volunteers, it is not about tasks, but about a part of their life, the impact upon which can be significant. The results of this paper, therefore, add to the understanding of volunteers, in the sense of giving attention, being with, and of compassion as a community resource to patients and families in difficult situations. Theories about presence and presencing might have value in further underpinning this contribution to palliative care. Understanding the extent and depth of the volunteers' experience will help to prevent the undervaluing of their contribution and increase the impact of their involvement.
Objective: Even when medical treatments are limited, supporting patients’ coping strategies could improve their quality of life. Greater understanding of patients’ coping strategies, and influencing factors, can aid developing such support. We examined the prevalence of coping strategies and associated variables.
Methods: We used sociodemographic and baseline data from the ACTION trial, including measures of Denial, Acceptance, and Problem-focused coping (COPE; Brief COPE inventory), of patients with advanced cancer from six European countries. Clinicians provided clinical information. Linear mixed models with clustering at hospital level were used.
Results: Data from 675 patients with stage III/IV lung (342, 51%) or stage IV colorectal (333, 49%) cancer were used; mean age 66 (10 SD) years. Overall, patients scored low on Denial and high on Acceptance and Problem-focused coping. Older age was associated with higher scores on Denial than younger age (ß = 0.05; CI[0.023; 0.074]), and patients from Italy (ß = 1.57 CI[0.760; 2.388]) and Denmark (ß = 1.82 CI[0.881; 2.750]) scored higher on Denial than patients in other countries.
Conclusions: Patients with advanced cancer predominantly used Acceptance and Problem-focused coping, and Denial to a lesser extent. Since the studied coping strategies of patients with advanced cancer vary between subpopulations, we recommend taking these factors into account when developing tailored interventions to support patients’ coping strategies.
As patients approach the end of life, they often experience a range of distressing symptoms and concerns such as pain, delirium, and breathlessness. Although most symptoms and concerns are amendable to pharmacological and/or nonpharmacological interventions, there may be some symptoms that are very difficult or impossible to treat or where available treatment options fail. These are called refractory symptoms because treatment (1) does not work, (2) the effects take too long to happen, or (3) the side effects are not acceptable to the patient. Refractory symptoms are not restricted to physical symptoms and, therefore, a multidimensional approach is needed to fully assess and manage the patient's condition. For example, existential suffering may be adding to the patient's physical suffering but can be particularly difficult to assess and manage. For this reason, the term intractable suffering is sometimes used. When conventional treatment options are no longer available and symptoms are considered refractory, the option of palliative sedation comes to the fore.
Cette ouvrage présente une réflexion autour du fait de mourir dans un contexte médical comme nouvelle pratique admises par les sociétés occidentales au XXIe siècle. L'auteur s'interroge sur le lien entre cet habitus et le déni global de la mort en Europe et en Amérique du Nord.
Background: Research is important internationally, impacting on health service provision and patient benefit. Journals play an important dissemination role, but there may be geographical bias, potentially affecting access to evidence.
Aim: To understand if there is a relationship between the continent of journals and that of contributing authors.
Design: Bibliometric analysis of journal citation report data (June 2018). Odds ratio of association of an author being from region, region of journal publication, publication model and the number of papers.
Setting: Journals specialising in palliative care research, with an impact factor above the median impact factor for their most common indexing category.
Results: Five journals: three published in Europe (Palliative Medicine, BMJ Supportive and Palliative Care, and BMC Palliative Care) and two in North America (Journal of Pain and Symptom Management and Journal of Palliative Medicine). Authors were from 30+ countries, but mostly North America (54.18%) or Europe (27.94%). Preliminary sensitivity tests show that the odds of an author being from a North American institution increase 16.4 times (p < 0.01; 95% confidence interval: 12.9, 20.8) if the region of journal publication is North America. The odds of an author being from a European institution is 14.0 times (p < 0.01; 95% confidence interval: 10.9, 17.9) higher if the region of journal publication is Europe.
Conclusion: Publishers, editors and authors are concentrated in North America or Europe. North American authors are more present in North American journals and European authors in European journals. This polarised approach, if replicated across readerships, may lead to research waste, duplication, and be sub-optimal for healthcare development.
Background: The PACE Steps to Success programme is a complex educational and development intervention to improve palliative care in nursing homes. Little research has investigated processes in the cross-cultural adaptation and implementation of interventions in palliative care across countries, taking account of differences in health and social care systems, legal and regulatory policies, and cultural norms. This paper describes a framework for the cross-cultural development and support necessary to implement such an intervention, taking the PACE Steps to Success programme as an exemplar.
Methods: The PACE Steps to Success programme was implemented as part of the PACE cluster randomised control trial in seven European countries. A three stage approach was used, a) preparation of resources; b) training in the intervention using a train-the-trainers model; and c) cascading support throughout the implementation. All stages were underpinned by cross-cultural adaptation, including recognising legal and cultural norms, sensitivities and languages. This paper draws upon collated evidence from minutes of international meetings, evaluations of training delivered, interviews with those delivering the intervention in nursing homes and providing and/or receiving support.
Results: Seventy eight nursing homes participated in the trial, with half randomized to receive the intervention, 3638 nurses/care assistants were identified at baseline. In each country, 1–3 trainers were selected (total n = 16) to deliver the intervention. A framework was used to guide the cross-cultural adaptation and implementation. Adaptation of three English training resources for different groups of staff consisted of simplification of content, identification of validated implementation tools, a review in 2 nursing homes in each country, and translation into local languages. The same training was provided to all country trainers who cascaded it into intervention nursing homes in local languages, and facilitated it via in-house PACE coordinators. Support was cascaded from country trainers to staff implementing the intervention.
Conclusions: There is little guidance on how to adapt complex interventions developed in one country and language to international contexts. This framework for cross-cultural adaptation and implementation of a complex educational and development intervention may be useful to others seeking to transfer quality improvement initiatives in other contexts.
Background: The Pontifical Academy for Life (PAV) is an academic institution of the Holy See (Vatican) which aims to develop and promote Catholic teachings on questions of biomedical ethics. Palliative care (PC) experts from around the world professing different faiths were invited by the PAV to develop strategic recommendations for the global development of PC ("PAL-LIFE group").
Design: Thirteen experts in PC advocacy participated in an online Delphi process. In four iterative rounds, participants were asked to identify the most significant stakeholder groups and then propose for each, strategic recommendations to advance PC. Each round incorporated the feedback from previous rounds until consensus was achieved on the most important recommendations. In the last step, the ad hoc group was asked to rank the stakeholders' groups by order of importance on a 13 points-scale and to propose suggestions for implementation. A cluster analysis provided a classification of the stakeholders in different levels of importance for PC development.
Results: Thirteen stakeholder groups and 43 recommendations resulted from the first round and, of those, 13 recommendations were chosen as the most important (one for each stakeholder group). Five groups had higher scores. The recommendation chosen for these top five groups were 1) Policy Makers: Ensure universal access to PC; 2) Academia: Offer mandatory PC courses to undergraduates; 3) Health care workers: PC professionals should receive adequate certification; 4) Hospitals and health care centers: Every healthcare center should ensure access to PC medicines, and 5) PC associations: National Associations should be effective advocates and work with their governments in the process of implementing international policy framework. Not chosen recommendations for both this higher scored group, plus for the remaining eight groups, are also presented in order of importance.
Conclusion: The white paper represents a position statementof the PAV with regards to advocacy and promotion of PC.
Cet atlas présente les ressources pays par pays en matière de soins palliatifs : services pour adultes ou enfants, lits dédiés, composition et nombre d'équipes, tendance et objectifs des politiques nationales de santé des pays.
Background: In many countries, the consumption of opioid medicines is too low to meet population needs. Discussions within the Access To Opioid Medication in Europe project indicated that there may be significant differences in the perception of barriers for their adequate use, depending on the stakeholders.
Aim: The aim of this study was to examine the perception of barriers and their impact concerning opioid medicines, comparing policy makers, healthcare professionals working in the field of pain management, palliative care or harm reduction and other stakeholders.
Design: Data were collected using a questionnaire partially constructed from existing surveys, reviewed for content validity by four experts and pilot-tested in Latvia.
Setting/participants: Participants of the Access to Opioid Medication in Europe national conferences were invited to complete the questionnaire. Stakeholder groups were compared using non-parametric rank-sum tests.
Results: In total, 199 participants (54%) in seven countries completed the questionnaire. Most frequently rated major barriers included lack of financial resources and inadequate knowledge, skills and training among policy makers (55%–66%). Overall, policy makers perceived issues less often as major barriers or having major impact (29% barrier, 32% impact) compared to other stakeholders (36%–42% barrier, 39%–51% impact). Significant differences were seen on several aspects. For example, excessive regulation or bureaucracy for prescribing was rated as having major impact by 55%–57% of healthcare professionals in contrast to only 20% of the policy makers (p = 0.002).
Conclusion: Multiple barriers may play an important role, partly depending on the perspective of the stakeholder involved. Hence, when addressing perceived barriers, it is important to include all relevant stakeholder groups. Only then, effective and widely supported solutions can be implemented.
Purpose: Opioids reduce cancer-related pain but an association with shorter survival is variably reported.
im: To investigate the relationship between pain, analgesics, cancer and survival within the European Palliative Care Cancer Symptom (EPCCS) study to help inform clinical decision making.
Methods: Secondary analysis of the international prospective, longitudinal EPCCS study which included 1739 adults with advanced, incurable cancer receiving palliative care. In this secondary analysis, for all participants with date of death or last follow up, a multilevel Weibull survival analysis examined whether pain, analgesics, and other relevant variables are associated with time to death.
Results: Date of death or last follow-up was available for 1404 patients (mean age 65.7 [SD:12.3];men 50%). Secondary analysis of this group showed the mean survival from baseline was 46.5 (SD:1.5) weeks (95% CI:43.6–49.3). Pain was reported by 76%; 60% were taking opioids, 51% non-opioid analgesics and 24% co-analgesics. Opioid-use was associated with decreased survival in the multivariable model (HR = 1.59 (95% CI:1.38–1.84), p < 0.001). An exploratory subgroup analysis of those with C-reactive protein (CRP) measures (n = 219) indicated higher CRP was associated with poorer survival (p = 0.001). In this model, the strength of relationship between survival and opioid-use weakened (p = 0.029).
Conclusion: Opioid-use and survival were associated; this relationship weakened in a small sensitivity-testing subgroup analysis adjusting for CRP. Thus, the observed relationship between survival and opioid-use may partly be due to tumour-related inflammation. Larger studies, measuring disease activity, are needed to confirm this finding to more accurately judge the benefits and risks of opioids in advanced progressive disease.
OBJECTIVE: To describe the current status of withholding or withdrawal of life-sustaining interventions (LSI) for neonates in Japan and to identify physician- and institutional-related factors that may affect advance care planning (ACP) practices with parents.
STUDY DESIGN: A self-reported questionnaire was administered to assess frequency of withholding and withdrawing intensive care at the respondent's facility, the physician's degree of affirming various beliefs about end-of-life care that was compared to 7 European countries, their self-reported ACP practices and perceived barriers to ACP. Three neonatologists at all 298 facilities accredited by the Japan Society for Neonatal Health and Development were surveyed, with 572 neonatologists at 217 facilities responding.
RESULTS: At 76% of facilities, withdrawing intensive care treatments was "never" done, while withholding intensive care had been done "sometimes" or more frequently at 82% of facilities. Japanese neonatologists differed from European neonatologists regarding their degree of affirmation of 3 out of 7 queried beliefs about end-of-life care. In hospitals that were more likely to "sometimes" (or more often) withdraw treatments, respondents were less likely to affirm beliefs about doing "everything possible" or providing the "maximum of intensive care". Self-reported ACP practices did not vary between neonatologists based on their hospital's overall pattern of withholding or withdrawing treatments.
CONCLUSION: Among NICU facilities in Japan, 21% had been sometimes withdrawing LSI and 82% had been "sometimes" withholding LSI. Institutional treatment practices may have a strong association with physicians' beliefs that then affect end-of-life discussions, but not with self-reported ACP practices.
OBJECTIVES: To determine the prevalence of clinician perception of inappropriate cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) regarding the last out--of-hospital cardiac arrest (OHCA) encountered in an adult 80 years or older and its relationship to patient outcome.
DESIGN: Subanalysis of an international multicenter cross-sectional survey (REAPPROPRIATE).
SETTING: Out-of-hospital CPR attempts registered in Europe, Israel, Japan, and the United States in adults 80 years or older.
PARTICIPANTS: A total of 611 clinicians of whom 176 (28.8%) were doctors, 123 (20.1%) were nurses, and 312 (51.1%) were emergency medical technicians/paramedics.
RESULTS AND MEASUREMENTS: The last CPR attempt among patients 80 years or older was perceived as appropriate by 320 (52.4%) of the clinicians; 178 (29.1%) were uncertain about the appropriateness, and 113 (18.5%) perceived the CPR attempt as inappropriate. The survival to hospital discharge for the “appropriate” subgroup was 8 of 265 (3.0%), 1 of 164 (.6%) in the “uncertain” subgroup, and 2 of 107 (1.9%) in the “inappropriate” subgroup (P = .23); 503 of 564 (89.2%) CPR attempts involved non-shockable rhythms.
CPR attempts in nursing homes accounted for 124 of 590 (21.0%) of the patients and were perceived as appropriate by 44 (35.5%) of the clinicians; 45 (36.3%) were uncertain about the appropriateness; and 35 (28.2%) perceived the CPR attempt as inappropriate. The survival to hospital discharge for the nursing home patients was 0 of 107 (0%); 104 of 111 (93.7%) CPR attempts involved non-shockable rhythms.
verall, 36 of 543 (6.6%) CPR attempts were undertaken despite a known written do not attempt resuscitation decision; 14 of 36 (38.9%) clinicians considered this appropriate, 9 of 36 (25.0%) were uncertain about its appropriateness, and 13 of 36 (36.1%) considered this inappropriate.
CONCLUSION: Our findings show that despite generally poor outcomes for older patients undergoing CPR, many emergency clinicians do not consider these attempts at resuscitation to be inappropriate. A professional and societal debate is urgently needed to ensure that first we do not harm older patients by futile CPR attempts.
BACKGROUND: Recommendations of the European Association for Palliative Care have been proposed to strengthen the provision of palliative care and it is clear that people with dementia can benefit from palliative care, but no research so far addresses the beliefs of university students and professionals in the social, medical and other science fields in South East Europe regarding the need from palliative care. The objective of this study is to explore when students and professionals consider a person with dementia in need of palliative care and to compare their opinions in three South East European countries.
SUBJECTS AND METHODS: An anonymized questionnaire was used based on van Riet Paap et al. (2015) case-vignette. A sample of 1287 participants (student nurses, professional nurses, psychology students, professional psychologists, student doctors, professional doctors, and students and professionals from other non-relevant to medical and social care sciences) was examined in Greece, Bulgaria and Romania.
RESULTS: The open responses to the "when" question revealed the categories: after her diagnosis/after the first symptoms; when she and her family cannot cope; at the advance of symptoms; all the time; when she behaves aggressively; I am not sure/there is no specific point. Unexpectedly, age, professional status and field of studies were not found to be significant predictors, but only the country of origin was found to contribute to the differences in the participants' answers regarding the start of palliative care.
CONCLUSION: Although professional-student status and relevancy of subject did not predict opinions, the country of origin predicted controversies for the proposed time point of considering a person with dementia in need of palliative care.
BACKGROUND: Grieving and death rituals vary widely across cultures and are often influenced by geographical regions, religions, and local norms. Nursing rituals reflect the forms of cultural behaviour that assist in communicating traditional knowledge and practices. They help nurses maintain social order through cohesion and interaction.
AIM AND OBJECTIVES: Exploration of European and Middle Eastern intensive care nursing ceremonies and rituals surrounding care provided to patients after death has been carried out. The key question researchers asked was "Can you describe your practice of caring for a patient who has died?"
DESIGN: Prospective qualitative thematic analysis.
METHODS: This study used a prospective qualitative thematic analysis investigating nursing practice and rituals when caring for patients who have died in intensive care. The interviews were conducted face-to-face with nurses consenting to be interviewed for research purposes. During the interviews, researchers noted sentences and topics, which they later classified into categories and subcategories. The interview settings were international and national conferences, workshops, meetings, and seminars over a 2-year period. Thematic analysis was performed. This analysis allowed the researchers to understand and make sense of collective meanings and experiences of participants.
RESULTS: A total of 23 interviews with critical care nurses from 16 countries in Europe and Middle East were conducted. Through reflective and meaningful analytical interpretation, two main themes (with subthemes) emerged: sacredness and dignity. More similarities than differences among the nurses' experiences were found. Rituals included, opening a window, lighting a candle, blessing the deceased, and bereaving with the family.
CONCLUSIONS: Post-death ritual reflects local guidelines regulating the handling of the deceased body, culturally approved expressions of mourning, and acts to perform at specific times following death. Nursing rituals expressed here demonstrated the dignity, wherein nurses show towards the deceased and relationships between deceased and bereaved.
RELEVANCE TO CLINICAL PRACTICE: The investigators perceived nursing culture, beliefs, ceremonies, and rituals surrounding caring for patients who have died to be creative, spiritual, meaningful, and relevant for nurses.
Background: People with advanced cancer experience multiple symptoms during their illness trajectory, which can fluctuate in intensity.
Aim: To describe the course of self-reported quality of life, emotional functioning, physical functioning and symptom intensity over time in cancer patients receiving palliative care.
Design: Longitudinal study with monthly assessments, using the EORTC QLQ-C15-PAL. Data were analysed (1) prospectively, from baseline to =8-month follow-up; and (2) retrospectively, by taking death as index date and comparing results from three cross-sectional subsamples at different stages of illness (time to death =6, 5–3 and 2–0 months). Linear mixed models were calculated.
Setting/participants: A total of 1739 patients (mean age 66, 50% male) from 30 palliative care centers in 12 countries were included.
Results: In prospective analyses, quality of life, functioning and symptoms–except nausea/vomiting–remained generally stable over time. In retrospective analyses, patients 2–0 months before death reported significantly lower quality of life and physical functioning scores than those 5–3 months before death, who in turn scored lower than those =6 months before death, suggesting progressive decline. Emotional functioning remained initially unchanged, but decreased in the last months. Pain, fatigue and appetite loss showed a stable increase in intensity towards death. Dyspnea, insomnia and constipation increased from 5–3 to 2–0 months before death. Nausea/vomiting only increased when comparing those =6 months before death with those 2–0 months before death.
Conclusion: While the prospective approach showed predominantly stable patterns for quality of life, functioning and symptom severity throughout study duration, retrospective analyses indicated that deterioration was already apparent before the terminal phase and accelerated close to death. Our findings support the importance of early symptom identification and treatment in this population, and highlight the need for further studies to explore what characterizes those with either lower or higher symptom burden at different time points towards death.