Opinions of the Dutch public on palliative sedation: A mixed-methods approach

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BACKGROUND: Palliative sedation is defined as deliberately lowering a patient's consciousness, to relieve intolerable suffering from refractory symptoms at the end of life. Palliative sedation is considered a last resort intervention in end-of-life care that should not be confused with euthanasia. OBJECTIVE: To inform healthcare professionals about attitudes of the general public regarding palliative sedation. Design A cross-sectional survey among members of the Dutch general public followed by qualitative interviews. METHOD: 1960 members of the general public completed the questionnaire, which included a vignette describing palliative sedation (response rate 78%); 16 participants were interviewed. RESULTS: In total, 22% of the responders indicated knowing the term 'palliative sedation'. Qualitative data showed a variety of interpretations of the term. 81% of the responders agreed with the provision of sedatives as described in a vignette of a patient with untreatable pain and a life expectancy of < 1 week who received sedatives to alleviate his suffering. This percentage was somewhat lower for a patient with a life expectancy of < 1 month (74%; P = 0.007) and comparable in the case where the physician gave sedatives with the aim of ending the patient's life (79%; P = 0.54). CONCLUSION: Most of the general public accept the use of palliative sedation at the end of life, regardless of a potential life-shortening effect. However, confusion exists about what palliative sedation represents. This should be taken into account by healthcare professionals when communicating with patients and their relatives on end-of-life care options.




Van Der Kallen, H. T. H., Raijmakers, N. J. H., Rietjens, J. A. C., Van Der Male, A. A., Bueving, H. J., Van Delden, J. J. M., & Van Der Heide, A. (2013, October). Opinions of the Dutch public on palliative sedation: A mixed-methods approach. British Journal of General Practice. https://doi.org/10.3399/bjgp13X673685

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