Desire for hastened death among patients with advanced AIDS

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Psychology | Social and Behavioral Sciences


The recent debate over legalization of physician-assisted suicide has fueled interest in understanding factors that lead medically ill patients to seek a hastened death. The authors investigated the prevalence and predictors of desire for hastened death in 372 patients with advanced AIDS who were newly admitted to a palliative-care facility. Clinician-rated and self-report measures of desire for hastened death, depression, hopelessness, spiritual well-being, social support, pain, and physical symptom burden were administered to assess the factors that correspond to a high desire for death. The prevalence ranged from 4.6% to 8.3%, significantly lower than in previous studies of patients with advanced or terminal cancer. Multivariate models revealed significant and unique effects for both hopelessness and depression, with these variables accounting for a large proportion of the variance in each model. Authors discuss the implications of these findings for palliative care practice and the assisted-suicide debate.

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