Relieving suffering at the end of life: Practitioners' perspectives on palliative sedation from three European countries


This paper reports findings from visits to palliative care settings and research units in the UK, Belgium and the Netherlands. The aim was to learn about clinicians' (both nurses and doctors) and academic researchers' understandings and experiences of palliative sedation for managing suffering at the end of life, and their views regarding its clinical, ethical and social implications. The project was linked to two larger studies of technologies used in palliative care. Eleven doctors, 14 nurses and 10 researchers took part in informal interviews. Relevant reports and papers from the academic, clinical and popular press were also collected from the three countries. The study took place in a context in which attention has been drawn towards palliative sedation by the legalisation of euthanasia in the Netherlands and Belgium, and by the re-examination of the legal position on assisted dying in the UK. In this context, palliative sedation has been posited by some as an alternative path of action. We report respondents' views under four headings: understanding and responding to suffering; the relationship between palliative sedation and euthanasia; palliative sedation and artificial hydration; and risks and uncertainties in the clinician-patient/family relationship. We conclude that the three countries can learn from one another about the difficult issues involved in giving compassionate care to those who are suffering immediately before death. Future research should be directed at enabling dialogue between countries: this has already been shown to open the door to the development of improved palliative care and to enhance respect for the different values and histories in each.Europe Palliative care End-of-life care Euthanasia UK Belgium The Netherlands

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Research Papers in Economics

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Last time updated on 7/6/2012

This paper was published in Research Papers in Economics.

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