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The present study aims were (1) to identify the proportion of terminally ill cancer patients with desire for hastened death (DHD) receiving specialized palliative care, (2) to identify the reasons for DHD, and (3) to classify patients with DHD into some interpretable subgroups.
Advanced cancer patients admitted to 23 inpatients hospices/palliative care units in 2017 were enrolled. Data were prospectively obtained by the primarily responsible physicians. The presence/absence of DHD and reasons for DHD were recorded. A cluster analysis was performed to identify patterns of subgroups in patients with DHD.
Data from 971 patients, whose Richmond Agitation–Sedation Scale score at admission was zero and who died in palliative care units, were analyzed. The average age was 72 years, common primary cancer sites were the gastrointestinal tract (31%) and the liver/biliary ducts/pancreas (19%). A total of 174 patients (18%: 95% confidence interval, 16–20) expressed DHD. Common reasons for DHD were dependency (45%), burden to others (28%), meaninglessness (24%), and inability to engage in pleasant activities (24%). We identified five clusters of patients with DHD: cluster 1 (35%, 61/173): “physical distress,” cluster 2 (21%, 37/173): “dependent and burdensome,” cluster 3 (19%, 33/173): “hopelessness,” cluster 4 (17%, 30/173): “profound fatigue,” and cluster 5 (7%, 12/173): “extensive existential suffering.”
A considerable number of patients expressed DHD and could be categorized into five subgroups. These findings may contribute to the development of therapeutic strategies.
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