The wish to die in persons with serious illness

It is normal for persons with advanced, incurable diseases to have thoughts about dying and also sometimes to experience a wish to die. This research project will highlight the patient’s perspective and derive possible measures for appropriate care and support.

  • Project description (ongoing research project)

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    The reasons behind a wish to die in persons with serious illness are mostly complex. The wish to die is closely connected with treatability and course of the illness, with the quality of life experienced, with the patients’ own biographies, with their needs, attitudes and concerns, but it is also connected with the immediate environment and society. There has been little research on how persons with serious illness themselves view their wish to live and to die and what their reasons are. This is especially true for persons with incurable, non-cancer diseases.

  • Aim

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    The aim is to survey 30 persons with incurable, advanced non-cancer diseases on their life situation and quality of life, their attitudes, concerns and needs. Based on their responses, conclusions will be drawn regarding the intentions behind, reasons for, meanings, and functions of the wish to die, how these change over the course of time and how they are weighed against each other. Close relatives and the health care professionals will be asked about the patient’s situation and their own attitudes. Special attention will be focused on the effect of family members’ and health care professionals’ attitudes on patients’ decisions.

    The study method follows an interpretive phenomenological approach and was developed in a previous study that investigated similar questions with persons suffering from cancer. The model for structured analysis of the wish to die developed in that study will be used in this NRP 67 study.

  • Relevance

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    The findings of this study should help us to better understand persons who in the face of near death are dealing with the realization that life is finite and with their own death. This will contribute towards an improved medical-ethical view and assessment of the wish to die as well as to better decision making, care and support of persons at the end of life.

  • Original title

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    Palliative non-oncology patients’ wish to die. The attitudes and concerns of patients with neurological diseases, organ failure or frailty about the end of life and dying.