PLoS One. 2016 Jun 23;11(6):e0158188. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0158188. eCollection 2016.
Continuous deep sedation until death is a highly debated medical practice, particularly regarding its potential to hasten death and its proper use in end-of-life care. A thorough analysis of important trends in this practice is needed to identify potentially problematic developments. This study aims to examine trends in the prevalence and practice characteristics of continuous deep sedation until death in Flanders, Belgium between 2007 and 2013, and to study variation on physicians' degree of palliative training. METHODS: Population-based death certificate study in 2007 and 2013 in Flanders, Belgium. Reporting physicians received questionnaires about medical practices preceding the patient's death. Patient characteristics, clinical characteristics (drugs used, duration, artificial nutrition/hydration, intention and consent), and palliative care training of attending physician were recorded. We posed the following question regarding continuous deep sedation: 'Was the patient continuously and deeply sedated or kept in a coma until death by the use of one or more drugs'. RESULTS: After the initial rise of continuous deep sedation to 14.5% in 2007 (95%CI 13.1%-15.9%), its use decreased to 12.0% in 2013 (95%CI 10.9%-13.2%). Compared with 2007, in 2013 opioids were less often used as sole drug and the decision to use continuous deep sedation was more often preceded by patient request. Compared to non-experts, palliative care experts more often used benzodiazepines and less often opioids, withheld artificial nutrition/hydration more often and performed sedation more often after a request from or with the consent of the patient or family. CONCLUSION: Worldwide, this study is the first to show a decrease in the prevalence of continuous deep sedation. Despite positive changes in performance and decision-making towards more compliance with due care requirements, there is still room for improvement in the use of recommended drugs and in the involvement of patients and relatives in the decision-making process.
Ann Palliat Med. 2016 May 24. pii: apm.2016.05.02. doi: 10.21037/apm.2016.05.02. [Epub ahead of print]
Pain is one of the most common, distressing and feared symptom among cancer and other patients in need of palliative care. An estimated 25% of cancer patients and 25 million people die in pain each year. Effective pain and symptom management are the core elements of palliative carewhich aims at reducing suffering and improving quality of life (QOL) throughout the course of illness starting from diagnosis, in sync with curative treatments and at end of life. There is a prevailing shortage of manpower apt to deal with pain and providing cost-effective palliative care and with the rise of cancer, other chronic diseases and explosion of new life-prolonging therapeutic modalities, this 'Patient-pain and palliative physician' discrepancy is only going to increase, more so in developing countries. The need of the hour is to train all healthcare physicians and nurses especially those working in the field of chronic pain in principles of effective pain and symptom palliation, to integrate cancer pain and symptom management into existing pain management fellowships and to introduce a holistic pain and palliative care model at all levels of healthcare system. Simultaneously, of equal importance is to conduct research, evidence building and formulate policies and guidelines for meticulous symptom management among the diverse category of patients and diseases so as to have a personalized and individualistic approach to patient management. In this comprehensive review, we have pondered upon the need, advantages, barriers and recommendations to achieve ideal 'Integrated pain and palliative medicine' services, their equitable implementation and delivery to 'whomsoever in need of them'.