OBJECTIVES: This study determined attitudes of four groups-Korean patients with cancer, their family caregivers, physicians and the general Korean population-towards five critical end-of-life (EOL) interventions-active pain control, withdrawal of futile life-sustaining treatment (LST), passive euthanasia, active euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide.
DESIGN AND SETTING: We enrolled 1001 patients with cancer and 1006 caregivers from 12 large hospitals in Korea, 1241 members of the general population and 928 physicians from each of the 12 hospitals and the Korean Medical Association. We analysed the associations of demographic factors, attitudes towards death and the important components of a 'good death' with critical interventions at EoL care.
RESULTS: All participant groups strongly favoured active pain control and withdrawal of futile LST but differed in attitudes towards the other four EoL interventions. Physicians (98.9%) favoured passive euthanasia more than the other three groups. Lower proportions of the four groups favoured active euthanasia or PAS. Multiple logistic regression showed that education (adjusted OR (aOR) 1.77, 95% CI 1.33 to 2.36), caregiver role (aOR 1.67, 95% CI 1.34 to 2.08) and considering death as the ending of life (aOR 1.66, 95% CI 1.05 to 1.61) were associated with preference for active pain control. Attitudes towards death, including belief in being remembered (aOR 2.03, 95% CI 1.48 to 2.79) and feeling ‘life was meaningful’ (aOR 2.56, 95% CI 1.58 to 4.15) were both strong correlates of withdrawal of LST with the level of monthly income (aOR 2.56, 95% CI 1.58 to 4.15). Believing ‘freedom from pain’ negatively predicted preference for passive euthanasia (aOR 0.69, 95% CI 0.55 to 0.85). In addition, ‘not being a burden to the family’ was positively related to preferences for active euthanasia (aOR 1.62, 95% CI 1.39 to 1.90) and PAS (aOR 1.61, 95% CI 1.37 to 1.89).
CONCLUSION: Groups differed in their attitudes towards the five EoL interventions, and those attitudes were significantly associated with various attitudes towards death.
PURPOSE: Understanding the concept of a "good death" is crucial to end-of-life care, but our current understanding of what constitutes a good death is insufficient. Here, we investigated the components of a good death that are important to the general population, cancer patients, their families, and physicians.
METHODS: We conducted a stratified nationwide cross-sectional survey of cancer patients and their families from 12 hospitals, physicians from 12 hospitals and the Korean Medical Association, and the general population, investigating their attitudes toward 10 good-death components.
FINDINGS: Three components-"not be a burden to the family," "presence of family," and "resolve unfinished business"-were considered the most important components by more than 2/3 of each of the three groups, and an additional three components-"freedom from pain," "feel that life was meaningful," and "at peace with God"-were considered important by all but the physicians group. Physicians considered "feel life was meaningful," "presence of family," and "not be a burden to family" as the core components of a good death, with "freedom from pain" as an additional component. "Treatment choices' followed, "finances in order," "mentally aware," and "die at home" were found to be the least important components among all four groups.
CONCLUSION: While families strongly agreed that "presence of family" and "not be a burden to family" were important to a good death, the importance of other factors differed between the groups. Health care providers should attempt to discern each patient's view of a good death.