OBJECTIVE: To examine how relatives evaluate the quality of communication with the treating physician of a dying resident in long-term care facilities (LTCFs) and to assess its differences between countries.
DESIGN: A cross-sectional retrospective study in a representative sample of LTCFs conducted in 2015. Relatives of residents who died during the previous 3 months were sent a questionnaire.
SETTINGS AND PARTICIPANTS: 761 relatives of deceased residents in 241 LTCFs in Belgium, England, Finland, Italy, the Netherlands, and Poland.
METHODS: The Family Perception of Physician-Family Communication (FPPFC) scale (ratings from 0 to 3, where 3 means the highest quality) was used to retrospectively assess how the quality of end-of-life communication with treating physicians was perceived by relatives. We applied multilevel linear and logistic regression models to assess differences between countries and LTCF types.
RESULTS: The FPPFC score was the lowest in Finland (1.4 ± 0.8) and the highest in Italy (2.2 ± 0.7). In LTCFs served by general practitioners, the FPPFC score differed between countries, but did not in LTCFs with on-site physicians. Most relatives reported that they were well informed about a resident's general condition (from 50.8% in Finland to 90.6% in Italy) and felt listened to (from 53.1% in Finland to 84.9% in Italy) and understood by the physician (from 56.7% in Finland to 85.8% in Italy). In most countries, relatives assessed the worst communication as being about the resident's wishes for medical treatment at the end of life, with the lowest rate of satisfied relatives in Finland (37.6%).
CONCLUSION: The relatives' perception of the quality of end-of-life communication with physicians differs between countries. However, in all countries, physicians' communication needs to be improved, especially regarding resident's wishes for medical care at the end of life.
IMPLICATIONS: Training in end-of-life communication to physicians providing care for LTCF residents is recommended.
The present article reviews the state of public debate and legal provisions concerning end-of-life decision-making in Italy and offers an evaluation of the moral and legal issues involved. The article further examines the content of a recent law concerning informed consent and advance treatment directives, the main court pronouncements that formed the basis for the law, and developments in the public debate and important jurisprudential acts subsequent to its approval. The moral and legal grounds for a positive evaluation of this law, which attests that the patient may withhold or withdraw from life-prolonging treatment, will be offered with reference to liberal approaches and particularly to the frameworks of care and virtue ethics; but reasons will also be offered in order to consider not only the latter but also broader range of end-of-life treatment decisions as morally apt options. In this light, we argue in favour of a further development of the Italian legislation to encompass forms of assisted suicide and active euthanasia.
BACKGROUND: While the need for palliative care in long-term care facilities is growing, it is unknown whether palliative care in this setting is sufficiently developed.
AIM: To describe and compare in six European countries palliative care provision in long-term care facilities and to assess associations between patient, facility and advance care planning factors and receipt and timing of palliative care.
DESIGN: Cross-sectional after-death survey regarding care provided to long-term care residents in Belgium, England, Finland, Italy, the Netherlands and Poland. Generalized estimating equations were used for analyses.
SETTING/PARTICIPANTS: Nurses or care assistants who are most involved in care for the resident.
RESULTS: We included 1298 residents in 300 facilities, of whom a majority received palliative care in most countries (England: 72.6%-Belgium: 77.9%), except in Poland (14.0%) and Italy (32.1%). Palliative care typically started within 2 weeks before death and was often provided by the treating physician (England: 75%-the Netherlands: 98.8%). A palliative care specialist was frequently involved in Belgium and Poland (57.1% and 86.7%). Residents with cancer, dementia or a contact person in their record more often received palliative care, and it started earlier for residents with whom the nurse had spoken about treatments or the preferred course of care at the end of life.
CONCLUSION: The late initiation of palliative care (especially when advance care planning is lacking) and palliative care for residents without cancer, dementia or closely involved relatives deserve attention in all countries. Diversity in palliative care organization might be related to different levels of its development.
OBJECTIVE: Ensure access to perinatal palliative care (PnPC) to all eligible fetuses/infants/parents.
DESIGN: During 12 meetings in 2016, a multidisciplinary work-group (WG) performed literature review (Grading of Recommendations, Assessment, Development and Evaluation (GRADE) method was applied), including the ethical and legal references, in order to propose shared care pathway.
SETTING: Maternal-Infant Department of Padua's University Hospital.
PATIENTS: PnPC eligible population has been divided into three main groups: extremely preterm newborns (first group), newborns with prenatal/postnatal diagnosis of life-limiting and/or life-threatening disease and poor prognosis (second group) and newborns for whom a shift to PnPC is appropriate after the initial intensive care (third group).
INTERVENTIONS: The multidisciplinary WG has shared care pathway for these three groups and defined roles and responsibilities.
MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Prenatal and postnatal management, symptom's treatment, end-of-life care.
RESULTS: The best care setting and the best practice for PnPC have been defined, as well as the indications for family support, corpse management and postmortem counselling, as well suggestion for conflicts' mediation.
CONCLUSIONS: PnPC represents an emerging field within the paediatric palliative care and calls for the development of dedicated shared pathways, in order to ensure accessibility and quality of care to this specific population of newborns.
Dans le deuil périnatal, l’absence de reconnaissance juridique et sociale de l’existence de l’enfant peuvent être des facteurs de risque pour le travail de deuil des parents. La comparaison entre les lois italiennes et françaises montre le rôle joué par les racines laïques et chrétiennes dans la législation. Malgré les différences, dans les deux pays la reconnaissance de l’existence de l’enfant est encore faible. On n’est pas encore en mesure de pourvoir aux besoins des parents, pour lesquels, même sans l’inscription à l’état civil, l’enfant a vraiment existé.
The article looks into the case involving Fabiano Antoniani, who, following a major road accident, was left tetraplegic. Marco Cappato drove him to a Swiss clinic where Mr. Antoniani took his own life by self-administration of lethal pentobarbital sodium. Cappato was put on trial, but the Italian Constitutional Court urged the Parliament to decriminalise assisted suicide in extremely serious cases. From a comparison with other European countries, approaches range from restrictive (banning both active euthanasia and assisted suicide), to entirely permissive. An intermediate approach only entails a ban on active euthanasia. It would be desirable to uniformise the diverse national statutes on a European level, which would make it possible for everyone to receive assistance towards ending their suffering, with limitations to incurable cases to be medically verified, and at the end of a path designed to ensure that patient freedom of choice is upheld at all time.
The prevalence of children on long-term ventilation (LTV) at home has increased in many countries. In Italy, there are 4.3/100,000 population younger than 18 years. Pediatric palliative care (PPC) network provides high-level care for these patients. In December 2003, in the northeast region of Italy, the regional authority promoted and developed a regional network for PPC, a regional network dedicated to the management of pediatric patients with life-limiting and life-threatening diseases. Characterization of LTV children population and description of care offered to them by a regional PPC network, based on the experience of the Veneto region were collected in a regional database. The regional database and evaluation of families' satisfaction, by means of a questionnaire, were longitudinally analyzed. We studied 56 children on LTV. The main involved diseases were neuromuscular diseases and myopathy. All patients had major comorbidities. Mean age was 4.5 years. The median age of starting ventilation was 3.9 years. The initial type of ventilation was invasive mechanical ventilation in 31 patients and noninvasive ventilation in 25 of them. The overall average frequency of hospitalizations for acute episodes was 0.7 admissions per year and the median duration of staying was 6 days. The median duration of staying in the intensive care unit (ICU) was significantly reduced after the opening of a residential solution (the pediatric hospice) (5 vs. 39 days). PPC network can offer global care to children on LTV. The availability of a residential structure into the PPC network seems to reduce the number and duration of hospital stays, especially in ICU, of this population, with likely cost savings. Further studies are necessary to confirm this hypothesis.
Depuis le 31 janvier 2018, l’Italie fait partie des États qui disposent d’une loi permettant à tout individu majeur d’exprimer ses volontés en matière de traitement, en prévision des jours où il pourrait être hors d’état de le faire. Parallèlement, en France, deux ans après son entrée en vigueur, la loi Claeys-Leonetti est de plus en plus questionnée. Certains demandent une nouvelle loi sur la fin de vie. Un détour par l’Italie, centré sur le contexte d’émergence de sa récente loi, peut se révéler éclairant. Si les similitudes entre les deux textes sont nombreuses, les différences entre les pratiques et les cadres de pensée peuvent suggérer des pistes de réflexion afin de contribuer à améliorer les conditions de la fin de vie.
Supportive and palliative care at the end of life (EOL) is a core component of health systems. Providing care at the EOL may require the interaction of several care providers working in different settings including nursing homes, home care, hospices, and hospitals. This work aims to (a) provide evidence on the performance of EOL care for cancer patients across healthcare organizations, with a focus on the place of care, aggressive treatments, opioids, and the place of death and (b) analyze factors associated with dying in hospital. A population-based retrospective study was performed using administrative data from Tuscany region (Italy). Thirteen thousand sixty-six cancer patients who died in 2016 were considered. There is a marked variability in EOL care within regional areas, with the multilevel logistic regression highlighting a greater likelihood of dying in hospital for patients who were admitted to intensive care units or previously hospitalized. There is a lower probability of dying in acute care setting for patients assisted in hospices and in both hospital and hospices/home care and for patients treated with opioids. This intraregional variation highlights the need to improve EOL planning and rethink the delivery of supportive/palliative care. Further investigations on the preferences of patients may lead to more understanding.
BACKGROUND: Dependence is a common life experience and innate condition for human beings due to their bodily and relational essence, but in contemporary society, it has become a stressful condition. Care dependence is central to nursing, and patients with advanced cancer are often dependent on care. Understanding nurses' perceptions of care dependence can contribute to awareness of the impact it has on nurses.
OBJECTIVE: The aim of this study was to explore palliative care nurses' experiences and perceptions regarding patient dependence.
METHODS: Sixteen nurses taking care of dependent patients in a palliative care center in Rome were interviewed. Giorgi's descriptive phenomenological method was used.
RESULTS: Nurses caring for dependent patients transcend the boundaries of dependence. Care dependence is an experience of powerlessness and regression. A patient's life in dependence is precarious, as they have to overcome the daily limits of life. Taking care of dependent patients requires nurses to manage the unmanageable and to know and to embrace change from within in order to build positive relations of personal closeness and reciprocal self-giving.
CONCLUSIONS: Nurses should be aware that self-transcendence and the consequent positive relations could make the difference in the experience of care dependence and promote personal growth for both patient and nurse. Positive and transcending relationships can transform care dependence into the opportunity to find meaning and purpose in life.
IMPLICATIONS FOR PRACTICE: The study highlights what nurses feel in caring for dependent patients. Understanding nurses' perceptions is important to delineate a proper caring for dependent patients.
This article analyses new legislation regulating advance directives in Italy. On 14 December 2017, the Italian Senate passed a Bill regulating end-of-life decisions by codifying patients' rights to self-determination. It is the first law governing advance directives in the Italian legal system. This article studies and critically examines the two types of advance directives through an Italian legal perspective - living wills and nominations of a surrogate. It also applies a legal comparison approach. In its conclusions, this article advances some policy suggestions.
BACKGROUND: Newer models of palliative and supportive cancer care view the person as an active agent in managing physical and psychosocial challenges. Therefore, personal efficacy is an integral part of this model. Due to the lack of instruments in Italian to assess coping self-efficacy, the present study included the translation and validation of the Italian version of the Cancer Behavior Inventory-Brief (CBI-B/I) and an initial analysis of the utility of self-efficacy for coping in an Italian sample of palliative care patients.
METHODS: 216 advanced cancer patients who attended palliative care clinics were enrolled. The CBI-B/I was administered along with the European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer Quality of Life Questionnaire-Core 30 (EORTC QLQ-C30), the Mini Mental Adjustment to Cancer Scale (Mini-MAC), the Cancer Concerns Checklist (CCL), and the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS). The Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group Performance Status (ECOG-PS) ratings of functional capacity were completed by physicians.
RESULTS: Factor analysis confirmed that the structure of the CBI-B/I was consistent with the English version. Internal consistency reliability and significant correlations with the EORTC QLQ-C30, Mini-MAC, and HADS supported the concurrent validity of the CBI-B/I. Differences in CBI-B/I scores for high versus low levels of the CCL and ECOG-PS supported the clinical utility of the CBI-B/I.
CONCLUSIONS: The CBI-B/I has strong psychometric properties and represents an important addition to newer model of palliative and supportive care. In order to improve clinical practice, the CBI-B/I could be useful in identifying specific self-efficacy goals for coping in structured psychosocial interventions.
A consensus document on early palliative care was produced by a committed Working Group of the Italian Society of Medical Oncology and the Italian Society of Palliative Care to improve the early integration of palliative care in medical oncology and to stimulate and guide the choices of those who daily face the problems of advanced stage cancer patients. The simultaneous administration of antineoplastic treatments and early palliative care was shown to be beneficial in metastatic cancer pathway outcomes. Patients who could benefit from early palliative care are those with an advanced cancer at presentation, a compromised PS for cancer, and/or morbidities, and who are too frail to receive treatment. According to the Bruera practice models, in which the combination of cancer management with early palliative care can be offered, three groups of patients needing simultaneous care were identified and three different models of the delivery of palliative care were proposed. In patients with good prognosis and low need of simultaneous care, the solo practice model and the request for consultations were suggested, while in patients with poor prognosis disease with high need of simultaneous care and in conditions with high need of simultaneous care, regardless of cancer prognosis, the integrated care approach should be offered. Palliative care consultation services are seldom accessible in the majority of Italian hospitals; thus the application of various practice models depends on available resources, and a shared care model with the structures of palliative care operating in the area is often required.
BACKGROUND: In December 2017, Law 219/2017, 'Provisions for informed consent and advance directives', was approved in Italy. The law is the culmination of a year-long process and the subject of heated debate throughout Italian society. Contentious issues (advance directives, the possibility to refuse medical treatment, the withdrawal of medical treatment, nutrition and hydration) are addressed in the law.
MAIN TEXT: What emerges clearly are concepts such as quality of life, autonomy, and the right to accept or refuse any medical treatment - concepts that should be part of an optimal relationship between the patient and healthcare professionals. The law maximizes the value of the patient's time to decide. Every patient is allowed to make choices for the present (consenting to or refusing current treatment) as well as for the future, conceived as a continuation of the present, and to decide what comes next, based on what he/she already knows. The law identifies three distinct but converging paths towards the affirmation of a care relationship based on reciprocal trust and respect: the possibility to consent to or refuse treatment, the shared care planning, and advance directives.
CONCLUSIONS: The fundamental point to emerge from the new Italian law is that consensus is an essential connotation of the treatment relationship. Consensus is not limited to the acceptance/rejection of medical treatment but is ongoing. It is projected into the future through shared care planning and advance directives which act as tools for self-determination and the manifestation of the beliefs and preferences of persons unable to express their will. These principles are in line with the idea of appropriate care as evaluated from two different perspectives, one of scientific adequacy and the other commensurate with the individual's resources, fragility, values, and beliefs. Surely, however, the new law is not the end of the matter on issues such as conscientious objection, which is deeply rooted within the Italian cultural and political debate. In this regard, healthcare institutions and policymakers will be called upon to develop and implement organizational policies aimed at the management of foreseeable conscientious objection in this field.
OBJECTIVE: Older people approaching the end of life are at high risk for adverse drug reactions. Approaching end of life should change the therapeutic aims, triggering a reduction in the number of drugs. The main aim of this study was to describe the preventive and symptomatic drug treatments prescribed to patients discharged from internal medicine and geriatric wards, with limited life expectancy. The secondary aim was to describe the potentially severe DDIs.
MATERIALS AND METHODS: We analyzed Registry of Polytherapies Societa Italiana di Medicina Interna (REPOSI), a network of internal medicine and geriatric wards, to describe the drug therapy of patients discharged with limited life expectancy.
RESULTS: The study sample comprised 55 patients discharged with limited life expectancy. Patients with at least one preventive medication that could be considered for de-prescription at end-of-life were significantly fewer from admission to discharge (30; 54.5% and 21; 38.2%, p = 0.02). ACE inhibitors, angiotensin II receptor blockers, calcium channel blockers, lipid-lowering drugs and clonidine were the most frequent potentially avoidable medications prescribed at discharge, followed by xanthine oxidase inhibitors and drugs to prevent fractures. Thirty-seven (67.3%) patients were also exposed to at least one potentially severe drug-drug interaction at discharge.
CONCLUSION: Hospital discharge is associated with small reductions in the use of commonly prescribed preventive medications in patients discharged with limited life expectancy. Cardiovascular drugs are the most frequent potentially avoidable preventive medications. A consensus framework, or shared criteria for potentially inappropriate medication in elderly patients with limited life expectancy could be useful to further improve drug prescription.
BACKGROUND: The current debate regarding decision-making at the End-of-Life (EoL) is increasing remarkably and has spread all over the world. However, literature has paid little attention to describe choice's differences in EoL care between healthcare professionals and general public.
OBJECTIVES: The aim of this study was to explore the difference between choices in EoL care made by healthcare professionals and those of the general public within the Italian context.
SETTING AND PARTICIPANTS: In 2017, an Italian widespread survey was conducted using a snowball sampling. A total of 2038 participants completed the survey, 55.64% of which were the general public.
RESULTS: The main differences related to specific EoL choices made by healthcare professionals and the general public. In particular, healthcare professionals were more likely to avoid cardiopulmonary resuscitation and mechanical forms of breathing in terminal-stage conditions, and they were also more likely to be favorable towards the use of opioids to avoid suffering. Overall, healthcare professionals were also more likely to make a choice rather than express a 'not sure' answer.
CONCLUSION: The higher percentage of participants in the general public group that chose 'not sure' highlighted the importance of addressing and enhancing people's self-awareness. More cross-national investigation should help to frame the understanding of the choice's differences in EoL care between healthcare professionals and general public.
OBJECTIVE: To investigate whether and when palliative sedation was discussed with hospice patients with cancer and/or with their families and factors associated with patient involvement in such discussions.
METHODS: Medical records of all patients with cancer who died in an Italian hospice in 2014-2015 (N = 326) were retrospectively reviewed. Multiple logistic regression was used to assess the association between patients' characteristics and palliative sedation discussion with the patient versus palliative sedation discussion only with the family.
RESULTS: Palliative sedation discussion was in 51.8% of the cases reported in the record. In most of the cases, discussions were conducted pre-emptively. Palliative sedation was used for 67.3% of the patients who were involved in the discussion and for 32.7% of the patients when the topic was discussed only with the family. Patient involvement in palliative sedation discussions was negatively associated with living with others (OR 0.34, CI 0.15; 0.77), and positively associated with awareness of prognosis (OR 5.61, CI 2.19; 14.33) and days of survival after hospice admission (OR 3.41, CI 1.55; 7.51).
CONCLUSION: Policies encouraging patient involvement in palliative care decision-making, including palliative sedation, should be implemented and their adoption should be carefully examined. Prospective studies addressing this topic are needed.
BACKGROUND: There is a heterogeneous literature on healthcare utilization patterns at the end of life. The objective of this study is to examine the impact of closeness to death on the utilization of acute hospital-based healthcare services and some primary healthcare services and compare differences in gender, age groups and major causes of death disease specific mortality.
METHODS: A matched case-control study, nested in a cohort of 411,812 subjects, linked to administrative databases was conducted. All subjects were residents in the Friuli Venezia Giulia Region (Italy), born before 1946, alive in January 2000 and were followed up to December 2014. Overall, 158,571 decedents/cases were matched by gender and year of birth to one control, alive at least one year after their matched case's death (index-date). Hospital admissions, emergency department visits, drug prescriptions, specialist visits and laboratory tests that occurred 365 days before death/index-date, have been evaluated. Odds Ratios (ORs) for healthcare utilization were estimated through conditional regression models, further adjusted for Charlson Comorbidity Index and stratified by gender, age groups and major causes of death.
RESULTS: Decedents were significantly more likely of having at least one hospital admission (OR 7.0, 6.9-7.1), emergency department visit (OR 5.2, 5.1-5.3), drug prescription (OR 2.8, 2.7-2.9), specialist visit (OR 1.4, 1.4-1.4) and laboratory test (OR 2.7, 2.6-2.7) than their matched surviving counterparts. The ORs were generally lower in the oldest age group (95+) than in the youngest (55-74). Healthcare utilization did not vary by sex, but was higher in subjects who died of cancer.
CONCLUSION: Closeness to death appeared to be strongly associated with healthcare utilization in adult/elderly subjects. The risk seems to be greater among younger age groups than older ones, especially for acute based services. Reducing acute healthcare at the EOL represents an important issue to improve the quality of life in proximity to death.
Background: An important part of palliative care is discussing preferences at end of life, however such conversations may not often occur. Care staff with greater self-efficacy towards end-of-life communication are probably more likely to have such discussions, however, there is a lack of research on self-efficacy towards end-of-life discussions among long-term care staff in Europe and related factors.
Objectives: Firstly, to describe and compare the self-efficacy level of long-term care staff regarding end-of-life communication across six countries; secondly, to analyse characteristics of staff and facilities which are associated to self-efficacy towards end-of-life communication.
Design: Cross-sectional survey.
Settings: Long-term care facilities in Belgium, England, Finland, Italy, the Netherlands and Poland (n=290).
Participants: Nurses and care assistants (n=1680) completed a self-efficacy scale and were included in the analyses.
Methods: Care staff rated their self-efficacy (confidence in their own ability) on a scale of 0 (cannot do at all) to 7 -(certain can do) of the 8-item communication subscale of the Self-efficacy in End-of-Life Care survey. Staff characteristics included age, gender, professional role, education level, training in palliative care and years working in direct care. Facility characteristics included facility type and availability of palliative care guidelines, palliative care team and palliative care advice. Analyses were conducted using Generalized Estimating Equations, to account for clustering of data at facility level.
Results: The proportion of staff with a mean self-efficacy score >5 was highest in the Netherlands (76.4%), ranged between 55.9% and 60.0% in Belgium, Poland, England and Finland and was lowest in Italy (29.6%). Higher levels of self-efficacy (>5) were associated with: staff over 50 years of age (OR 1.86 95% CI[1.30-2.65]); nurses (compared to care assistants) (1.75 [1.20-2.54]); completion of higher secondary or tertiary education (respectively 2.22 [1.53-3.21] and 3.11 [2.05-4.71]; formal palliative care training (1.71 [1.32-2.21]); working in direct care for over 10 years (1.53 [1.14-2.05]); working in a facility with care provided by onsite nurses and care assistants and offsite physicians (1.86 [1.30-2.65]); and working in a facility where guidelines for palliative care were available (1.39 [1.03-1.88]).
Conclusion: Self-efficacy towards end-of-life communication was most often low in Italy and most often high in the Netherlands. In all countries, low self-efficacy was found relatively often for discussion of prognosis. Palliative care education and guidelines for palliative care could improve the self-efficacy of care staff.
Objective: The study examines psychophysical distress of health-care professionals providing home-based palliative care. The aim is to investigate potential correlations between dimensions of burnout and different coping strategies.
Methods: The present study is an observational cross-sectional investigation. The study involved all the home palliative care teams of an Italian nonprofit organization. Of a total of 275 practitioners working for the organization, 207 (75%) decided to participate in the study and complete questionnaires. Questionnaires employed were Maslach Burnout Inventory, General Health Questionnaire 12, Psychophysiological Questionnaire of CBA 2.0, and Coping Orientation to Problems Experienced. Professionals were physicians (50%), nurses (36%), and psychologists (14%). There were no exclusion criteria. Data were processed by SPSS 23 and analyses employed were Spearman , Mann-Whitney U test, and 1-way analysis of variance on ranks.
Results: Among participants, a low number of professionals were emotionally exhausted (11%) or not fulfilled at work (20%), whereas most of them complained of depersonalization symptoms (67%). Emotional exhaustion and depersonalization were found to be associated with avoidance coping strategies, whereas problem-solving and positive attitude were negatively associated with emotional exhaustion and positively with personal accomplishment. Moreover, using avoidance strategies was related to a worse psychological and physical condition.
Conclusions: Findings suggest the need to provide professionals training programs about coping and communication skills tailored to fit the professionals' needs according to their work experience in palliative care and aimed at improving the approach to patients and relatives.