Background : Limited information is available regarding the detailed clinical patterns of palliative sedation (PS), i.e., the symptom control rate, salvage medication, and the effectiveness of intermittent PS (IPS) versus continuous PS (CPS).
Objectives : The primary aim was to investigate clinical outcomes of PS in a real clinical setting.
Methods : Clinical information was prospectively collected for patients who were treated according to a prescribed protocol and assessment tools in a hospice unit affiliated with a tertiary cancer center between September 2015 and March 2017. Data were analyzed retrospectively. Midazolam was used as the first medication for PS, and propofol and phenobarbital were subsequently used as salvage medications. Indications of PS, the depth of sedation, the quality of sleep, and the level of consciousness were assessed.
Results : A total of 306 patients were enrolled, 89 of whom (29.1%) received PS. No difference in survival time was found between patients with and without PS (median survival, 34.0 vs 25.0 days, p=0.109). Delirium was the most common indication of PS. The symptoms of 73 (82.0%) of 89 patients with PS were relieved with midazolam. Twelve (75.0%) of 16 midazolam-failure patients responded to propofol, 5 of whom (31%) exhibited respiratory depression. Of the 89 patients receiving PS, 61 (68.5%) received IPS and 28 patients (31.5%) received CPS. The median survival times from PS initiation to death were 6 days in the IPS group and 1 day in the CPS group (p<0.001). Interestingly, consciousness levels were significantly improved after IPS in the delirium group compared with those in the other group (41.7% vs 16.7%, p=0.002).
Conclusion : The refractory symptoms of end-of-life cancer patients can ultimately be relieved with various medications for PS. IPS may improve the consciousness level of patients with delirium.
Sedation therapy is a potential solution to providing relief from refractory symptoms at end of life. The aim of this study was to investigate actual sedation practice and physician characteristics associated with the use of sedation for terminally ill cancer patients in South Korea. A retrospective review was conducted on consecutive patients who had died from cancer at seven tertiary medical centers between January 2010 and October 2015. The use of sedation was defined as the administration of sedative agents to relieve intolerable symptoms within the last 2 weeks preceding death. Patients and physician characteristics and information on the use of sedation were collected.A total of 8309 patients were included in the study. Sedatives were administered in 1334 patients (16.1%) for the following indications: delirium in 39.3%, intractable pain in 23.1%, and dyspnea in 21.9%. Median duration of sedation from initiation to death was 3 days. The use of sedation depended on physician specialty and experience. Family physicians used sedation most often (57.6%), followed by medical oncologists (13.9%), other internists (10.7%), and surgical oncologists (9.4%). The use of sedation was highest for physicians with >5 to 10 years practice experience (22.1%) and lowest for those in practice for 5 years or less (10.2%). The proportion of patients receiving sedation also varied markedly across participating institutions (range, 7.0%-49.7%).This large cohort study provides insight into sedation practice for terminally ill cancer patients in South Korea. Our study shows that the use of sedation depends on physician background and institution. A nation-wide guidelines and continued education on end-of-life sedation are required in South Korea.
CONTEXT: To respect a patient's wish for end-of-life care, "the Act on Decisions on Life-Sustaining Treatment for Patients at the End-of-Life" was enacted in South Korea in 2016. Current understanding of people who would be involved in advance care planning (ACP) is crucial to disseminate it systematically.
OBJECTIVES: To investigate awareness and attitudes toward ACP in South Korea.
METHODS: A multicenter, nationwide cross-sectional study was conducted a survey regarding ACP among four groups that would have different positions and experiences: 1,001 cancer patients, 1,006 family caregivers, 928 physicians, and 1,241 members of the general public.
RESULTS: A total of 15% of the general population, 33% of the patients and caregivers, and 61% of the physicians had knowledge of advance directives. More than 64% of the general population, above 72% of the patients and caregivers, and 97% of the physicians were willing to do so when the disease status was aggravated or terminal. The possibility for changing the plan, uncertainty as to whether directives would actually be followed, and psychological discomfort were common reasons for not wanting to engage in ACP. Routine recommendations for a specific medical condition, heightened accessibility, and health insurance support were common factors that could help facilitate ACP.
CONCLUSION: Our findings suggest that strategies for promoting ACP should reflect different perspectives among the general public, patients, family caregivers, and physicians. Public advocacy, resources for approaching and integrating ACP into routine healthcare, as well as systematic support provisions, are needed.
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.
Opioid addiction, although uncommon in cancer patients, can be a significant challenge for optimal pain management in certain patients. We present a case of a 59-year-old man with advanced colon cancer whose compulsive craving for the buccal tablet of fentanyl citrate (BTFC) was improved with the use of olanzapine. He was hospitalized for abdominal pain caused by disease progression. He had visited several times at outpatient follow-up to obtain a prescription for BTFC because he took all medications before the appointed times. After admission, intravenous infusion of oxycodone and opioid rotation were applied to the patient to control his pain. However, he complained that the pain was not relieved at all and persistently asked for only BTFC 7 to 15 times per day. With the diagnosis of opioid addiction, the transdermal buprenorphine patch was applied, but was ineffective for controlling the addictive behaviors. Finally, olanzapine (10 mg/day per os), a dopamine receptor antagonist, was given to control the craving behavior because psychological dependence is mediated by the dopaminergic system. Three days later, opioid craving was reduced from five to one on a 5-point Likert scale. The pain was well controlled to numeric rating scale 1 or 2 without cravings for BTFC. Craving behavior as a result of opioid addiction may be controlled with olanzapine. Further prospective studies on this issue are warranted.
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.
Integrated early palliative care (EPC) improves quality of life and reduces psychological distress in adult patients with cancer and caregivers, but attitudes toward EPC have been poorly studied. We aimed to investigate attitudes toward EPC in a nationwide survey of patients with cancer and caregivers. From July to October 2016, we administered nationwide questionnaires examining attitudes toward EPC in patients with cancer (n = 1001) and their families (n = 1006) from 12 Korean hospitals. When an individual considered EPC unnecessary, the reasons were collected and analyzed. Factors associated with perception of EPC were examined. A majority of patients (84.5%) and caregivers (89.5%) had positive attitudes toward EPC. The most common reasons for deeming EPC unnecessary were that EPC may be an obstacle to cancer treatment (patients: 37%; caregivers: 23%; respectively) or that they were not sure if EPC is beneficial (patients: 21%; caregivers: 24%; respectively). Financial burden as a reason was more evident in caregivers (23%) than in patients (17%). Male gender, age <50, early stage, intensive care unit admission, and not believing that dying people should prepare to practice charity were associated with patients' negative attitudes. In caregivers, opposition to EPC was associated with not thinking death should be feared, not thinking people should be remembered, and lower educational level. Our findings showed that significant numbers of patients with advanced cancer and family caregivers showed positive attitudes toward EPC. However, more than 10% of participants did not consider EPC necessary. Physicians' communication with patients and caregivers and financial support could help overcome the barriers of EPC.
BACKGROUND: In this study, we aimed to develop and validate an instrument that could be used by patients with cancer to evaluate their quality of palliative care.
METHODS: Development of the questionnaire followed the four-phase process: item generation and reduction, construction, pilot testing, and field testing. Based on the literature, we constructed a list of items for the quality of palliative care from 104 quality care issues divided into 14 subscales. We constructed scales of 43 items that only the cancer patients were asked to answer. Using relevance and feasibility criteria and pilot testing, we developed a 44-item questionnaire. To assess the sensitivity and validity of the questionnaire, we recruited 220 patients over 18 years of age from three Korean hospitals.
RESULTS: Factor analysis of the data and fit statistics process resulted in the 4-factor, 32-item Quality Care Questionnaire-Palliative Care (QCQ-PC), which covers appropriate communication with health care professionals (ten items), discussing value of life and goals of care (nine items), support and counseling for needs of holistic care (seven items), and accessibility and sustainability of care (six items). All subscales and total scores showed a high internal consistency (Cronbach alpha range, 0.89 to 0.97). Multi-trait scaling analysis showed good convergent (0.568-0.995) and discriminant (0.472-0.869) validity. The correlation between the total and subscale scores of QCQ-PC and those of EORTC QLQ-C15-PAL, MQOL, SAT-SF, and DCS was obtained.
CONCLUSION: This study demonstrates that the QCQ-PC can be adopted to assess the quality of care in patients with cancer.
PURPOSE: The objective of this study was to investigate the impact of caregivers' role preference in decision making on conflicts and psychiatric distresses.
METHODS: The responses of 406 caregivers of terminal cancer patients enrolled in a trial determining the efficacy of a decision aid focused on the disclosure of terminal disease status were included in this secondary analysis. The outcomes include the change scores of the Decision Conflict Scale (DCS) and depression and anxiety subscales of the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS) at the 1 and 3 months from baseline. The linear mixed model was employed to discover the impact of caregivers' decisional role preference on the outcomes.
FINDINGS: Of the 406, 137 (33.7%) showed an active role preference and 269 (66.3%) showed a passive role preference. In the post hoc analysis of the adjusted differences of change scores between passive caregivers who received decision aid (passive-decision aid) and active caregivers with decision aid (active-decision aid), non-significant differences were observed in the DCS. However, at the 3-month, the change scores of the HADS depression subscale increased by 4.43 (effect size, 0.71) and those of the HADS anxiety subscale increased by 4.14 (effect size, 0.61) in the passive-decision aid group than in active-decision aid group, showing moderate to large difference.
CONCLUSIONS: These findings suggest that information might be ethically recommended in a format that is interactive and tailored to how much an individual wishes to be involved in the decision-making process.
PURPOSE: The authors tested whether a decision aid explaining how to discuss the approach of death with a family member with cancer would help family caregivers decide to discuss a terminal prognosis.
PATIENTS AND METHODS: The authors randomly assigned caregivers of terminally ill patients with cancer to a group that received a video and a companion workbook that showed either how they can discuss the prognosis with their patient (experimental arm) or how cancer pain can be controlled (control arm). At baseline and 1 month, they evaluated the decision to discuss terminal prognosis as the primary outcome. At 0, 1, 3, and 6 months, we assessed the caregivers' decisional conflict and satisfaction as secondary outcomes using a Decision Conflict Scale (DCS).
RESULTS: They found no difference in changes in the decision to discuss terminal prognosis between the two groups. Conflict (P = .003), uncertainty (P = .019), and value clarity (P = .007) subscale scores and total DCS score (P = .008) improved from baseline to 1 month significantly more in the experimental arm than in the control arm. Over 6 months, the significant between-group differences continued for the conflict (P = .031), uncertainty (P = .014), and value clarity (P = .039) subscale scores and total DCS score (P = .040).
CONCLUSION: Decision aids can help caregivers, with the aid of trained professionals, to communicate with patients about their terminal illness.
Patients with terminal cancer experience refractory symptoms in the last days of life. Although palliative sedation (PS) is recommended for patients suffering unbearable symptoms with imminent death, it requires clear communication between physicians and patients/caregivers. Understanding the demands and perceptions of patients and caregivers in the end-of-life phase are needed for effective communication. To explore patient experiences regarding end-of-life status and PS. The study was performed between October and December, 2013 with eligible terminal cancer patients and their families in a non-religious, tertiary healthcare facility in Korea. Eligibility criteria were a hospitalized cancer patient with a life expectancy of less than three months and who had never experienced PS. Data were collected via face-to-face in-depth interviews and analyzed using the constant comparative method of qualitative analysis. Saturation was achieved after conducting interviews with 13 patients or care-giving family members. Enrolled patients raised the following issues: 1) simultaneously harboring the hope of prolonging life and wishing for a peaceful death, 2) experiencing difficulties in having honest conversations with caregivers regarding death, 3) possessing insufficient knowledge and information regarding PS, and 4) hoping for the decision on PS to be made before suffering becomes too great. Terminally ill cancer patients and their caregivers expressed conflicting desires in hoping to prolong life and simultaneously wishing to experience a peaceful death. Improvements in the communications that occur among physicians, patients, and caregivers on the issues of prognosis and PS are needed.