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What Makes the End-of-Life Experience Peaceful?
Date:7/9/2012

By Jenifer Goodwin
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, July 9 (HealthDay News) -- Dying patients face their final days better if they are not in the hospital, not on a feeding tube or chemotherapy and feel that they have a trusting relationship with their doctor, a new survey of terminally ill cancer patients reveals.

Other factors that helped them find peace in the end, the survey showed, were prayer, meditation, a pastor's visit and freedom from excessive worry or anxiety.

The survey involved about 400 U.S. patients with advanced cancer who were told they had less than six months to live, and their closest caregiver, usually a spouse. The cancer patients, whose average age was 59, were surveyed an average of four months before they died. Their caregivers were then surveyed about the end-of-life experience.

Several factors determined how the patients and their caregivers rated their quality of life at the end. Among the most important: not dying in the intensive care unit or hospital; not having to endure aggressive, life-prolonging treatments at the end, such as feeding tubes or chemotherapy; and feeling their doctor saw them as a whole person and treated them with respect, said lead study author Holly Prigerson, director of the Center for Psychosocial Epidemiology and Outcomes Research at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.

"What the results suggest is that attention to patients' psychosocial needs, their spiritual needs, their comfort, their worries, their need to not be abandoned by their health care team and to feel valuable and significant are the things that matter most to the patients and their families," Prigerson added.

"It's not . . . how much chemo or what procedures are performed or heroics. In fact, it's the opposite. It's the human connection that seemed to be the most important [for] good quality of end-of-life care," she said.

The research was published online July 9 in the
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