Considerations of physicians about the depth of palliative sedation at the end of life

Siebe Swart, Agnes van der Heide, Lia Zuylen, RSGM Perez, WWA Zuurmond, Paul Maas, JJM van Delden, Judith Rietjens

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Background: Although guidelines advise titration of palliative sedation at the end of life, in practice the depth of sedation can range from mild to deep. We investigated physicians' considerations about the depth of continuous sedation. Methods: We performed a qualitative study in which 54 physicians underwent semistructured interviewing about the last patient for whom they had been responsible for providing continuous palliative sedation. We also asked about their practices and general attitudes toward sedation. Results: We found two approaches toward the depth of continuous sedation: starting with mild sedation and only increasing the depth if necessary, and deep sedation right from the start. Physicians described similar determinants for both approaches, including titration of sedatives to the relief of refractory symptoms, patient preferences, wishes of relatives, expert advice and esthetic consequences of the sedation. However, physicians who preferred starting with mild sedation emphasized being gu Interpretation: Physicians who choose either mild or deep sedation appear to be guided by the same objective of delivering sedation in proportion to the relief of refractory symptoms, as well as other needs of patients and their families. This suggests that proportionality should be seen as a multidimensional notion that can result in different approaches toward the depth of sedation.
Original languageUndefined/Unknown
Pages (from-to)E360-E366
JournalCMAJ. Canadian Medical Association Journal
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2012

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