Author(s): Morita T, Akechi T, Sugawara Y, Chihara S, Uchitomi Y
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Abstract PURPOSE: To clarify the frequency of practice of sedation therapy for terminally ill cancer patients and to identify physicians' attitudes toward sedation. METHODS: Questionnaires were mailed to 1,436 Japanese oncologists and palliative care physicians with a request to report their practice of and attitudes toward palliative sedation therapy. RESULTS: A total of 697 physicians returned questionnaires (response rate, 49.6\%). Use of mild, intermittent-deep, or continuous-deep sedation for physical and psychologic distress was reported by 89\% and 64\%, 70\% and 46\%, and 66\% and 38\%, respectively. In vignettes in which physicians were asked whether they would use sedation for a patient with refractory dyspnea or with existential distress, 14\% and 15\%, respectively, chose continuous-deep sedation as a strong possibility. Those physicians less confident with psychologic care and with higher levels of professional burnout were more likely to choose continuous-deep sedation. In vignettes in which they were asked whether they use sedation for a patient with depression or delirium, 39\% and 31\%, respectively, considered psychiatric treatment to be a strong possibility, and 42\% and 50\% regarded continuous-deep sedation as a potential treatment option. Physicians less involved in caring for the terminally ill and less specialized in palliative medicine were significantly less likely to choose psychiatric treatment. CONCLUSION: Sedation is frequently used for severe physical and psychologic distress of cancer patients. Physicians' clinical experiences with the terminally ill and their levels of professional burnout influence the decisions. Training and education for physicians in regard to end-of-life care and valid clinical guidelines for palliative sedation therapy are necessary.
This article was published in J Clin Oncol
and referenced in Journal of Palliative Care & Medicine