End-of-life decision making in palliative care and recommendations of the council of Europe: qualitative secondary analysis of interviews and observation field notes

Sandra Martins Pereira*, Emília Fradique, Pablo Hernández-Marrero

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Background: End-of-life decisions (ELDs) are embedded in clinical, sociocultural, political, economic, and ethical concerns. In 2014, the Council of Europe (CoE) through its Committee on Bioethics launched the "Guide on the decision-making process regarding medical treatment in end-of-life situations," aiming at improving decision-making processes and empowering professionals in making ELDs. Objective: To analyze if end-of-life decision making in palliative care (PC) is consistent with this Guide and to identify if disputed/controversial issues are part of current ELDs. Design: Qualitative secondary analysis. Setting/Subjects: Four qualitative datasets, including 44 interviews and 9 team observation field notes from previous studies with PC teams/professionals in Portugal. Measurements: An analysis grid based on the abovementioned guide was created considering three dimensions: ethical and legal frameworks, decision-making process, and disputed/controversial issues. Results: The majority of the professionals considered the ethical principle of autonomy paramount in end-of-life decision making. Justice and beneficence/nonmaleficence were also valued. Although not mentioned in the Guide, the professionals also considered other ethical principles when making ELDs, namely, responsibility, integrity, and dignity. Most of the interviewees and field notes referred to the collective interprofessional dimension of the decision-making process. Palliative sedation and the wish to hasten death were the most mentioned disputed/controversial issues. The nature, limitations, and benefits of qualitative secondary analysis are discussed. Conclusions: End-of-life decision-making processes made by Portuguese PC teams seem to be consistent with the guidelines of the CoE. Further research is needed about disputed/controversial issues and the actual use, effectiveness, and impact of ethical guidelines for end-of-life decision making on professionals' empowerment and for all parties involved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)604-615
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Palliative Medicine
Volume21
Issue number5
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - May 2018

Keywords

  • Advance directives
  • Decision making
  • End of life
  • Ethical guidelines
  • Ethical principles
  • Ethics
  • Palliative care
  • Palliative sedation
  • Qualitative secondary analysis
  • Wish to hasten death

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