Home palliative care for terminal cancer patients: A survey on the final week of life

Carlo Peruselli, P. Di Giulio, F. Toscani, M. Gallucci, C. Brunelli, M. Costantini, M. Tamburini, E. Paci, G. Miccinesi, J. M. Addington-Hall, I. J. Higginson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


As part of a large multicentre study on palliative care units in Italy, carried out between 1 January and 30 June 1995, we describe the place, circumstances and 'quality of death' of patients admitted to home palliative care. Data presented refer to 401 patients (67% of the 601 patients randomly selected for evaluation). Of these 401 patients 303 (76%) died at home. According to the Support Team Assessment Schedule (STAS) pain was fairly well controlled during the final week of life, while the control of other symptoms appeared to be less satisfactory. Invasive procedures were undertaken on 56% of patients, while in hospital the percentage increased to 75%. Twenty-five per cent of patients were totally pharmacologically sedated during the final 12 h of life. Neither the number of symptoms nor other factors were apparently associated with the decision to sedate the patient. The wide variations in the frequency of sedation among centres suggest that the choice to sedate the patient may reflect the provider's behaviour or services' policy rather than the patients' preference or needs. The definition of common criteria and guidelines for sedation of patients should be one of the topics for discussion among palliative care teams.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)233-241
Number of pages9
JournalPalliative Medicine
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1999


  • Home care services
  • Neoplasms
  • Palliative care
  • Sedation (non-MeSH)
  • Terminal care

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)
  • Nursing(all)


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