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Wishes to die at the end of life and subjective experience of four different typical dying trajectories. A qualitative interview study


Ohnsorge, Kathrin; Rehmann-Sutter, Christoph; Streeck, Nina; Gudat, Heike (2019). Wishes to die at the end of life and subjective experience of four different typical dying trajectories. A qualitative interview study. PLoS ONE, 14(1):e0210784.

Abstract

Research aims
The motivations that lead to wishes to die (WTD) in palliative care patients with cancer are relatively well studied. But little is known about WTD in other pathologies and the relation between subjective understandings of dying trajectories and a WTD. We investigated the WTD of palliative patients in four different dying trajectories: neurological diseases, organ failure, frailty due to age, and cancer.
Study population
62 palliative cancer (n = 30) and non-cancer (n = 32) patients (10 neurological disease; 11 organ failure; 11 frailty), their families and health professionals in different palliative care settings (248 interviews).
Study design and methods
Qualitative semi-structured interviews. Data analysis through Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis and Grounded Theory.
Results
In addition to personal motivations, we found that people dealing with similar trajectories were often confronted with similar questions and concerns due to similar challenges. For four trajectories we show typical patterns, similarities and differences that should be considered when talking with patients about their WTD. These illness-related considerations do not explain the WTD completely, but give important information on the challenges for particular patient groups that might experience a WTD. In all patient groups, there were clear moments that triggered a WTD: for neurological patients it was experiencing breathlessness, high-dependency care, or when considering tube feeding or respiratory support; for persons with organ failure it was an acute burdensome crisis; for patients with cancer after the initial diagnosis, it was the first relapse or the move into advanced palliative care; for elderly frail persons it was the move into care facilities, or the loss of important relationships or capabilities. The feeling of being a burden to others was reported in all patient groups.
Interpretation
WTD can be triggered within disease trajectories by specific conditions and transitional points that affect agency and self-understanding. A better understanding of the concerns and challenges of a particular dying trajectory as well as its characteristic trigger points can facilitate early and comprehensive communication about patients’ WTD, and the underlying motivations and protective factors.

Abstract

Research aims
The motivations that lead to wishes to die (WTD) in palliative care patients with cancer are relatively well studied. But little is known about WTD in other pathologies and the relation between subjective understandings of dying trajectories and a WTD. We investigated the WTD of palliative patients in four different dying trajectories: neurological diseases, organ failure, frailty due to age, and cancer.
Study population
62 palliative cancer (n = 30) and non-cancer (n = 32) patients (10 neurological disease; 11 organ failure; 11 frailty), their families and health professionals in different palliative care settings (248 interviews).
Study design and methods
Qualitative semi-structured interviews. Data analysis through Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis and Grounded Theory.
Results
In addition to personal motivations, we found that people dealing with similar trajectories were often confronted with similar questions and concerns due to similar challenges. For four trajectories we show typical patterns, similarities and differences that should be considered when talking with patients about their WTD. These illness-related considerations do not explain the WTD completely, but give important information on the challenges for particular patient groups that might experience a WTD. In all patient groups, there were clear moments that triggered a WTD: for neurological patients it was experiencing breathlessness, high-dependency care, or when considering tube feeding or respiratory support; for persons with organ failure it was an acute burdensome crisis; for patients with cancer after the initial diagnosis, it was the first relapse or the move into advanced palliative care; for elderly frail persons it was the move into care facilities, or the loss of important relationships or capabilities. The feeling of being a burden to others was reported in all patient groups.
Interpretation
WTD can be triggered within disease trajectories by specific conditions and transitional points that affect agency and self-understanding. A better understanding of the concerns and challenges of a particular dying trajectory as well as its characteristic trigger points can facilitate early and comprehensive communication about patients’ WTD, and the underlying motivations and protective factors.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:04 Faculty of Medicine > Institute of Biomedical Ethics and History of Medicine
Dewey Decimal Classification:610 Medicine & health
Scopus Subject Areas:Life Sciences > General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
Life Sciences > General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
Health Sciences > Multidisciplinary
Uncontrolled Keywords:General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology, General Agricultural and Biological Sciences, General Medicine
Language:English
Date:17 January 2019
Deposited On:07 Feb 2020 13:58
Last Modified:12 Sep 2020 08:17
Publisher:Public Library of Science (PLoS)
ISSN:1932-6203
OA Status:Gold
Free access at:PubMed ID. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0210784
PubMed ID:30653575

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