Palliative sedation in patients with cancer

Marco Maltoni, Elisabetta Setola

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Palliative sedation involves the use of sedative medication to relieve refractory symptoms in patients by reducing their level of consciousness. Although it is considered an acceptable clinical practice from most ethical points of view, palliative sedation is still a widely debated procedure and merits better understanding. Methods: The relevant medical literature pertaining to palliative sedation was analyzed and reviewed from various technical, relational, and bioethical perspectives. Results: Proportionate palliative sedation is considered to be the most clinically appropriate modality for performing palliative sedation. However, guidelines must be followed to ensure that it is performed correctly. Benzodiazepines represent the first therapeutic option and careful monitoring of dosages is essential to avoid oversedation or undersedation. Conclusions: Proportionate palliative sedation is used to manage and relieve refractory symptoms in patients with cancer during their last days or hours of life. Evidence suggests that its use has no detrimental effect on survival. A different decision-making process is used to manage the withdrawal of hydration than the process used to determine whether proportionate palliative sedation is appropriate. Communication between patients, their relatives, and the health care staff is important during this medical intervention.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)433-441
Number of pages9
JournalCancer Control
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Oct 1 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Hematology


Dive into the research topics of 'Palliative sedation in patients with cancer'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this