TITLE

Sedation for intractable distress in the dying--a survey of experts

AUTHOR(S)
Chater, Susan; Viola, Raymond; Paterson, Judi; Jarvis, Virginia
PUB. DATE
July 1998
SOURCE
Palliative Medicine;1998, Vol. 12 Issue 4, p255
SOURCE TYPE
Academic Journal
DOC. TYPE
Article
ABSTRACT
`Terminal sedation? is a phrase that has appeared in the palliative care literature in the last few years. There has not been a clear definition proposed for this term, nor has there been any agreement on the frequency with which the technique is used. A postal survey of 61 selected palliative care experts (59 physicians, two nurses) was carried out to examine their response to a proposed definition for `terminal sedation,' to estimate the frequency of this practice and the reasons for its use, to identify the drugs and dosages used, to determine the outcome, and to explore the decision-making process. Opinions on physician-assisted suicide and voluntary euthanasia were also sought. Eighty-seven per cent of the experts responded from eight countries, although predominantly from Canada and the United Kingdom. Forty per cent agreed unequivocally with the proposed definition, while 4% disagreed completely. Eighty-nine per cent agreed that 'terminal sedation' is sometimes necessary and 77% reported using it in the last 12 months ? over half of these for up to four patients. Reasons for using this method included various physical and psychological symptoms. The most common drugs used were midazolam and methotrimeprazine. Decision making usually involved the patient or family, and varied with respect to the ease with which the decision was made. The use of sedation was perceived to be successful in 90 out of 100 patients recalled. Ninety per cent of respondents did not support legalization of euthanasia. In conclusion, sedating agents are used by palliative care experts as tools for the management of symptoms. The term 'terminal sedation' should be abandoned and replaced with the phrase 'sedation for intractable distress in the dying'. Further research into the management of intractable symptoms and suffering is warranted.
ACCESSION #
8904339

 

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