Palliative sedation is defined as deliberately lowering a patient’s consciousness, to relieve intolerable suffering from refractory symptoms at the end of life. Palliative sedation is considered a last resort intervention in end-of-life care that should not be confused with euthanasia.
To inform healthcare professionals about attitudes of the general public regarding palliative sedation. Design
A cross-sectional survey among members of the Dutch general public followed by qualitative interviews.
1960 members of the general public completed the questionnaire, which included a vignette describing palliative sedation (response rate 78%); 16 participants were interviewed.
In total, 22% of the responders indicated knowing the term ‘palliative sedation’. Qualitative data showed a variety of interpretations of the term. 81% of the responders agreed with the provision of sedatives as described in a vignette of a patient with untreatable pain and a life expectancy of < 1 week who received sedatives to alleviate his suffering. This percentage was somewhat lower for a patient with a life expectancy of < 1 month (74%; P = 0.007) and comparable in the case where the physician gave sedatives with the aim of ending the patient’s life (79%; P = 0.54).
Most of the general public accept the use of palliative sedation at the end of life, regardless of a potential life-shortening effect. However, confusion exists about what palliative sedation represents. This should be taken into account by healthcare professionals when communicating with patients and their relatives on end-of-life care options.
Conflict of interest: none declared. Financial support: This study was supported via ZonMw. The sponsors approved the study design, but were not involved in the collection, analysis and interpretation of data.