Continuous deep sedation until death & healthcare professionals’ emotional well-being

Ziegler, S. et al. BMC Palliative Care | Published online: 8 May 2017

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Background: The practice of continuous deep sedation is a challenging clinical intervention with demanding clinical and ethical decision-making. Though current research indicates that healthcare professionals’ involvement in such decisions is associated with emotional stress, little is known about sedation-related emotional burden. This study aims to systematically review the evidence on the impact of the inpatient practice of continuous deep sedation until death on healthcare professionals’ emotional well-being.

 

Conclusions: Current evidence does not suggest that practicing continuous deep sedation is generally associated with lower emotional well-being of healthcare professionals. Higher emotional burden seems more likely when professionals struggled with clinical and ethical justifications for continuous deep sedation. This appeared to be in part a function of clinical experience. Further research is needed to strengthen this evidence, as it is likely that additional studies will change the current evidence base.

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Palliative sedation challenging the professional competency of health care providers and staff

Leboul, D. et al. BMC Palliative Care | Published online: 11 April 2017

Background: Despite recent advances in palliative medicine, sedating a terminally ill patient is regarded as an indispensable treatment to manage unbearable suffering. With the prospect of widespread use of palliative sedation, the feelings and representations of health care providers and staff (carers) regarding sedation must be carefully explored if we are to gain a better understanding of its impact and potential pitfalls. The objective of the study was to provide a comprehensive description of the opinions of carers about the use of sedation practices in palliative care units (PCU), which have become a focus of public attention following changes in legislation.

Conclusions: The uncertainty experienced by the carers with regard to the medical, psychosocial and ethical justification for sedation is a source of psychological burden and moral distress, and it has proved to be a major source of suffering in the workplace. Lastly, the study shows the uncertainty can have the positive effect of prompting the care team to devise ways to deal with it.

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Sedation at the end of life – a nation-wide study in palliative care units in Austria

Schur, S. et al. BMC Palliative Care. Published online: 14 May 2016

Background: Sedation is used to an increasing extent in end-of-life care. Definitions and indications in this field are based on expert opinions and case series. Little is known about this practice at palliative care units in Austria.

Methods: Patients who died in Austrian palliative care units between June 2012 and June 2013 were identified. A predefined set of baseline characteristics and information on sedation during the last two weeks before death were obtained by reviewing the patients’ charts.

Results: The data of 2414 patients from 23 palliative care units were available for analysis. Five hundred two (21 %) patients received sedation in the last two weeks preceding their death, 356 (71 %) received continuous sedation until death, and 119 (24 %) received intermittent sedation. The median duration of sedation was 48 h (IQR 10–72 h); 168 patients (34 %) were sedated for less than 24 h. Indications for sedation were delirium (51 %), existential distress (32 %), dyspnea (30 %), and pain (20 %). Midazolam was the most frequently used drug (79 %), followed by lorazepam (13 %), and haloperidol (10 %). Sedated patients were significantly younger (median age 67 years vs. 74 years, p ≤ 0.001, r = 0.22), suffered more often from an oncological disease (92 % vs. 82 %, p ≤ 0.001, φ = 0.107), and were hospitalized more frequently (94 % vs. 76 %, p ≤ 0.001, φ = 0.175). The median number of days between admission to a palliative care ward/mobile palliative care team and death did not differ significantly in sedated versus non-sedated patients (10 vs. 9 days; p = 0.491).

Conclusion: This study provides insights into the practice of end-of-life sedation in Austria. Critical appraisal of these data will serve as a starting point for the development of nation-wide guidelines for palliative sedation in Austria.

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