Last Days of Life (PDQ®): Supportive care - Health Professional Information [NCI] - Ethical Issues
Other difficult questions can arise from the potentially negative value that is culturally assigned to detaching oneself, or "zoning out," as a lower form of coping. Should the anxious patient who no longer wants to face the anxiety associated with the end of life and who wants to be sedated be encouraged to work through such issues? Or is it allowable for these patients to have sedation for dealing with their anxiety? How many alternatives should be tried before anxiety is considered unacceptable? When dealing with such requests, professionals should consider their own cultural and religious biases and the cultural and/or religious backgrounds of patients and their families.
Few studies detail the use of terminal sedation for psychosocial symptoms. Four palliative care programs in Israel, South Africa, and Spain participated in one survey. One unique study has described the Japanese experience around the issues of palliative sedation therapy.[20,21] A retrospective study at the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston included 1,207 patients admitted to the palliative care unit. Palliative sedation was used in 15% of admissions. The most common indications were delirium (82%) and dyspnea (6%). Sedation in these circumstances is often on a temporary basis and was reversible in 23% of this group of patients.
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- Morita T, Chinone Y, Ikenaga M, et al.: Ethical validity of palliative sedation therapy: a multicenter, prospective, observational study conducted on specialized palliative care units in Japan. J Pain Symptom Manage 30 (4): 308-19, 2005.
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- Elsayem A, Curry Iii E, Boohene J, et al.: Use of palliative sedation for intractable symptoms in the palliative care unit of a comprehensive cancer center. Support Care Cancer 17 (1): 53-9, 2009.