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From cure to palliation: concept, decision and acceptance
  1. R Löfmark1,
  2. T Nilstun2,
  3. I Ågren Bolmsjö3
  1. 1
    Centre for Bioethics at Karolinska Institutet and Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden
  2. 2
    Department of Medical Ethics, Lund University, Lund, Sweden
  3. 3
    Department of Health Sciences, Lund University, Lund, Sweden
  1. Rurik Löfmark, Runebergsvägen 20, SE-802 67 GÄVLE, Sweden; rurik.lofmark{at}telia.com

Abstract

The aim of this paper is to present and discuss nurses’ and physicians’ comments in a questionnaire relating to patients’ transition from curative treatment to palliative care. The four-page questionnaire relating to experiences of and attitudes towards communication, decision-making, documentation and responsibility of nurses and physicians and towards the competence of patients was developed and sent to a random sample of 1672 nurses and physicians of 10 specialties. The response rate was 52% (n = 844), and over one-third made comments. The respondents differed in their comments about three areas: the concept of palliative care, experiences of unclear decision-making and difficulties in acceptance of the patient’s situation. The responses are analysed in terms of four ethical theories: virtue ethics, deontology, consequentialism and casuistry. Many virtues considered to be appropriate for healthcare personnel to possess were invoked. Compassion, honesty, justice and prudence are especially important. However, principles of medical ethics, such as the deontological principle of respect for self-determination and the consequence of avoidance of harm, are also implied. Casuistry may be particularly helpful in analysing certain areas of difficulty—namely, what is meant by “palliative care”, decision-making and accepting the patient’s situation. Keeping a patient in a state of uncertainty often causes more suffering than necessary. Communication among the staff and with patients must be explicit. Many of the staff have not had adequate training in communicating with patients who are at the end of their life. Time for joint reflection has to be regained, and training in decision-making is essential. In our opinion, palliative care in Sweden is in need of improvement.

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Footnotes

  • Competing interests: None declared.

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