Background: Voluntarily stopping eating and drinking (VSED) is an ongoing voluntary choice to forego food and hydration in an effort to hasten death. Ongoing caregiving is necessary as patients become weak and lose focus as a result of dehydration, but little is known about the process of supporting a patient through VSED.
Objective: To explore the experiences of caregivers who supported a patient through VSED.
Methods: Qualitative study with thematic analysis of transcripts of semistructured interviews with 24 U.S. caregivers for 20 individuals who had attempted VSED.
Results: Analysis produced four themes: (1) Caregivers believe that VSED is the best death available to the patient. (2) Caregivers act as advocates and worry that the patient's goals will be challenged by health care professionals, the community, or legal authorities; obtaining support from a hospice is an important way to legitimize VSED. (3) Through the VSED process itself, caregivers carry the responsibility for the patient's success as the patient becomes weaker and loses focus. (4) Because there is no social script to guide the VSED process, caregivers choose what roles to play during VSED, such as focusing on physical care or being emotionally present as the patient's spouse or child.
Conclusions: Caregivers face unique challenges in helping patients undertake VSED. Many are uncertain about whether they will receive support from clinicians or the community. Support from health professionals may improve caregiver confidence and reduce worry.
Voluntarily stopping eating and drinking is a means of hastening death. Unlike euthanasia or medical aid in dying, which are available only in certain jurisdictions and with assistance from health care
professionals, the ability to die by voluntarily stopping eating and drinking is determined by ongoing patient choice, although clinical and caregiver support is recommended. Few studies have examined the incidence of
patients choosing to stop eating and drinking; studies in the Netherlands and United States suggest patients hoosing this route have concerns about both physical and existential suffering. This article presents an
overview of voluntarily stopping eating and drinking, including guidance for clinicians, legal permissibility, and ethical discussions about whether the act constitutes suicide and how clinicians might respond to requests for information or support.
BACKGROUND: Developing recommendations for how we deliver healthcare is often left to leading experts in a field. Findings from the Integrated Palliative Care in cancer and chronic conditions (InSup-C) study, which aimed to identify best practice in integrated palliative care in cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and heart failure, led to recommendations developed through an expert consultation process. We also wanted to develop these recommendations further with participants who were largely clinicians and members of the public.
METHODS: Results from the InSup-C study were disseminated through a three-week massive open online course (MOOC) which ran in 2016, 2017 and 2019. The first course helped develop the final recommendations, which were ranked by MOOC participants in the subsequent courses. MOOC participants were predominantly clinicians, but also academics and members of the public. They rated how important each recommendation was on a 9 point scale (9 most important). Descriptive statistics were used to analyse the ratings. The results were compared to findings from the consultation.
RESULTS: Five hundred fifteen completed the last part of the course where the recommendations were ranked, of which 195 (38%) completed the ratings. The top recommendations related to: need to expand palliative care to non-malignant conditions; palliative care needs to include different dimensions of care including physical, psychological and spiritual; policies and regulations assessments should be made regularly; palliative care integration should be mandatory; and there should be greater availability of medicines. These differed compared to the top ranked recommendations by the consultation panel in relation to the importance of leadership and policy making. This may indicate that clinicians are more focused on daily care rather than the (inter) national agenda.
CONCLUSIONS: Whilst both sets of recommendations are important, our study shows that we need to include the views of clinicians and the public rather than rely upon leading expert opinion alone. To keep recommendations fresh we need both the input of clinicians, the public and experts. When disseminating findings, MOOCs offer a useful way to gain greater reach with clinicians and the public, and importantly could be a vehicle to validate recommendations made by leading expert panels.
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.
Background: Interdisciplinary team involvement is commonplace in many palliative care settings across the world. Teamwork is perceived by many experts as an indispensable functionality of palliative care teams. Significantly different structural and functional attributes of these teams between regional and organisational contexts could potentially act both as strengths and weaknesses towards their overall productivity. The sustainability and resilience of the team also has an indirect bearing on the team functioning.
Aim: This article describes international evidence on dynamic palliative care teams with a view of how and when they function efficiently or adversely. Emphasis is also placed on studies that suggest means to mitigate the conflicts and limitations of teamwork in palliative care and related healthcare settings.
Findings: Evidence strongly suggests that palliative care is best delivered through a multidisciplinary team approach.
Conclusion: The overall performance of a healthcare team is largely determined by the supportive work environment built through effective communication, leadership skills and mutual respect.
BACKGROUND: Addressing the concerns of family members is an important aspect of palliative and end-of-life care. One aspect that commonly causes family caregivers concern is the decline of patients' oral fluid intake in the last few days of life.
AIM: To map the narratives in which family members' experiences of witnessing the diminishing drinking of a dying relative have been researched, review the findings within each narrative and consider directions for future research.
DESIGN: An adapted meta-narrative review approach.
DATA SOURCES: The Cumulative Index of Nursing and Applied Health Literature, Medline, PsycINFO, Psycharticles and Scopus databases were searched for relevant research published between January 1982 and December 2017. Quality was assessed using the Quality Assessment and Review Instrument.
RESULTS: A total of 22 papers met the inclusion criteria. No study focused specifically on the experiences of family members when witnessing the diminishing drinking of dying relatives. However, research about diminishing drinking was identified within studies broadly focusing on cancer cachexia, clinical decision-making about hydration and/or nutrition and support in a hospice context. The research indicates that family members' experiences of diminishing drinking vary with their views about the significance of drinking, dying well and their expectations of themselves and healthcare professionals.
CONCLUSION: While some understanding of the topic can be inferred from research in related areas, there is a paucity of information specifically about family members' experiences when witnessing the diminishing drinking of a dying relative.
BACKGROUND: The World Health Organisation (WHO) endorses integrated palliative care which has a significant impact on quality of life and satisfaction with care. Effective integration between hospices, palliative care services, hospitals and primary care services are required to support patients with palliative care needs. Studies have indicated that little is known about which aspects are regarded as most important and should be priorities for international implementation. The Integrated Palliative Care in cancer and chronic conditions (InSup-C) project, aimed to investigate integrated practices in Europe and to formulate requirements for effective palliative care integration. It aimed to develop recommendations, and to agree priorities, for integrated palliative care linked to the InSuP-C project.
METHODS: Transparent expert consultation was adopted at the approach used. Data were collected in two phases: 1) international transparent expert consultation using face-to-face roundtable discussions at a one day workshop in Brussels, and 2) via subsequent online cross-sectional survey where items were rated to indicate degree of agreement on their importance and ranked to indicate priority for implementation. Workshop discussions used content analysis to develop a list of 23 recommendations, which formed the survey questionnaire. Survey analysis used descriptive statistics and qualitative content analysis of open responses.
RESULTS: Thirty-six international experts in palliative care and cancer care, including senior clinicians, researchers, leaders of relevant international organisations and funders, were invited to a face-to-face workshop. Data were collected from 33 (19 men, 14 women), 3 declined. They mostly came from European countries (31), USA (1) and Australia (1). Twenty one of them also completed the subsequent online survey (response rate 63%). We generated 23 written statements that were grouped into the organisational constructs: macro (10), meso (6) and micro (7) levels of integration of palliative care. Highest priority recommendations refer to education, leadership and policy-making, medium priority recommendations focused on funding and relationship-building, and lower priority recommendations related to improving systems and infrastructure.
CONCLUSIONS: Our findings suggest that amongst a group of international experts there was overall good agreement on the importance of recommendations for integrated palliative care. Understanding expert's priorities is important and can guide practice, policymaking and future research.
BACKGROUND: For children with life-shortening illness, achieving a "good death" can be a tacit goal. There is little understanding of how different stakeholders perceive what a "good death" might be.
OBJECTIVE: To review empirical literature to construct an understanding of a "good death" for children with life-shortening conditions.
DESIGN: An integrative review approach was followed. This involved searching across Embase, Web of Science, Medline, CINAHL, and PsycINFO (no date limits set), as well as identifying eligible studies tracking reference lists. Appraisal of shortlisted articles in full text was performed, followed by data extraction, synthesis, and interpretation.
RESULTS: Analysis of articles (n = 24) yielded a dynamic and layered narrative about a good death that revolved around three themes. (1) Level of needs: includes both practical support and aspirational goals such as “do everything.” (2) The composite experience: whether positive or negative adds to produce a sense of suffering. (3) Control (preservation and letting go): moving from maintaining status quo to acceptance of the child's death, the experience of which also contributes to suffering. Framed using a health care system perspective, a concept map that interprets a good death in children with life-shortening conditions is represented.
CONCLUSIONS: A single yet holistic understanding of a good death experienced in the "real world" is suggested. Pediatric health and social care providers, and even policy makers, can use this new understanding to conceive alternative approaches to enhance support to dying children and their families.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) promotes evidence-based medicine throughout contemporary health care. Its guidelines are employed in the United Kingdom and elsewhere, influencing the type and quality of health care provided. NICE considers a range of evidence in the process of creating guidelines; however, the research accepted as evidence greatly relies on positivist methodologies. At times, it is unnecessarily restricted to quantitative methods of data collection. Using the Clinical Guideline 140, opioids in palliative care, as an example, it is demonstrated that the research accepted as evidence is unable to provide answers to complex problems. In addition, several inherent biases are discussed, such as age inequality and pharmaceutical company influence. In order to provide coherent and useful guidelines relevant to complex problems in a real world setting, NICE must move away from focusing on data from randomised controlled trials. Its epistemological foundation must be questioned, paving the way for alternative research paradigms to be considered as evidence and thereby enriching subsequent guidelines.
BACKGROUND: Effective integration between hospices, palliative care services and other local health care services to support patients with palliative care needs is an important international priority. A previous model suggests that integration involves a cumulative stepped process of engagement with other organisations labelled as 'support, supplant or supplement', but the extent to which this model currently applies in the United Kingdom is unknown. We aimed to investigate accounts of hospice integration with local health care providers, using the framework provided by the model, to determine how service users and healthcare professionals perceived palliative care services and the extent of integration experienced.
METHODS: Longitudinal organisational case study methods were employed using qualitative serial interviews (interval 3 months) with patients and family carers focusing on how services responded to their needs; and group interviews with health professionals. Data were audio-recorded, transcribed verbatim, and analysed by qualitative content analysis and combined across data sources.
RESULTS: The study focused on four hospices in northern England, including 34 patients (diagnosis: 17 cancer, 10 COPD, 7 heart failure), 65% female, mean age 66 (range 44-89), 13 family carers of these patients (48% partners), and 23 health care professionals. While some care fell short of expectations, all patients reported high levels of satisfaction and valued continuity of care and efficient information sharing. All hospices supported and supplemented local providers, with three hospices also supplanting local provision by providing in-patient facilities.
CONCLUSION: UK hospices predominantly operate in ways that support and supplement other providers. In addition, some also supplant local services, taking over direct responsibility and funding in-patient care. They all contributed to integration with local services, with greater blurring of boundaries than defined by the original model. Integrated care offers the necessary flexibility to respond to changes in patient needs, however, constraints from funding drivers and a lack of clear responsibilities in the UK can result in shortfalls in optimal service delivery. Integrating hospice care with local healthcare services can help to address demographic changes, predominantly more frail older people, and disease factors, including the needs of those with non-malignant conditions. This model, tested in the UK, could serve as an example for other countries.
Une formation à distance dans le domaine sanitaire et social est accessible en permanence sur Internet. Mais quel est son impact sur la pratique professionnelle ? Et quels sont les défis à venir ? Les auteurs répondent à ces questions au moyen d'une revue de la littérature.
Les auteurs présentent un livre blanc de l’Association Européenne de Soins Palliatifs (EAPC) sur les compétences de base pour le travail social en soins palliatifs. Cet article détaille les compétences et les connaissances que doivent posséder les travailleurs sociaux en soins palliatifs en Europe. La première partie de cet article a été publiée dans le précédent numéro de la revue. [d'après résumé revue]
Les auteurs présentent un livre blanc de l’Association Européenne de Soins Palliatifs (EAPC) sur les compétences de base pour le travail social en soins palliatifs. Il traite notamment de la diversité des rôles, des tâches et de la formation des travailleurs sociaux en soins palliatifs en Europe. La seconde partie de cet article sera publiée dans le prochain numéro de la revue.