Understanding the wish to die in elderly nursing home residents


Little is known about the wish to die in elderly persons, and there are no studies available on the wish to die in residents of nursing homes. A better understanding of the wish to die in nursing home residents could help to improve the care of these vulnerable persons.

Project description (completed research project)

The wish to die has many facets: it can be a wish that death comes naturally, but it can also be an explicit wish for assisted suicide or active euthanasia. In palliative care, the wish to die has been studied in people with end-stage cancer. But up to now little is known about the wish to die in elderly persons living in nursing homes, even though these elderly persons are often in poor health and do not infrequently express a wish to die.


This study looks at 380 elderly residents of nursing homes in three different regions of Switzerland (in the cantons of Vaud, Ticino and St. Gallen). All new residents at the participating institutions will be asked to take part to the study. Consenting participants will be assessed with regard to their death wish, their spiritual distress and their psychological state. Qualitative interviews will be conducted with some of the participants. Frequency, strength and cause of the wish to die will be determined. The study will focus particularly on elucidating the links between spiritual distress, depression and the wish to die.


The results of this study will help medical staff and health professionals in nursing homes to better understand why some elderly people wish to die. In addition, the study - taking great care to safeguard the personal integrity and dignity of the individual - will make possible the development of concrete measures for care of persons whose wish to die is the expression of a distress.

Original title

Understanding the wish to die in elderly nursing home residents: a mixed method approach

Project leader

  • Dr. Stéfanie Monod, Service de la santé publique, Etat de Vaud
  • Prof. Christophe Bula, Service de gériatrie et réadaptation gériatrique du CHUV
  • Prof. Armin von Gunten, Service universitaire de psychiatrie de l'âge avancé
  • Dr. Claudia Mazzocato, Service de soins palliatifs du CHUV
  • Dr. Brenda Spencer, Institut universitaire de médecine sociale et préventive, CHUV
  • Dr. Thomas Münzer, Geriatrische Klinik, Kompetenzzentrum Gesundheit und Alter, St. Gallen
  • Dr. Pierluigi Quadri, Ospedali Regionali di Lugano e Mendrisio, Lugano

Institutionelle Zusammenarbeit

  • Centre Hospitalier Universitaire Vaudois (CHUV), Lausanne
  • Geriatrische Klinik, St. Gallen
  • Ospedali Regionali di Lugano e Mendrisio



Further information on this content


Dr. Stéfanie Monod Abteilung Geriatrie und geriatrische Rehabilitation des CHUV Chemin de Sylvana 10 1014 Lausanne +41 21 314 77 86

Products of the project