BACKGROUND: Empirical data about end-of-life decision-making practices are scarce. We aimed to investigate frequency and characteristics of end-of-life decision-making practices in six European countries: Belgium, Denmark, Italy, the Netherlands, Sweden, and Switzerland. METHODS: In all participating countries, deaths reported to death registries were stratified for cause (apart from in Switzerland), and samples were drawn from every stratum. Reporting doctors received a mailed questionnaire about the medical decision-making that had preceded the death of the patient. The data-collection procedure precluded identification of any of the doctors or patients. All deaths arose between June, 2001, and February, 2002. We weighted data to correct for stratification and to make results representative for all deaths: results were presented as weighted percentages. FINDINGS: The questionnaire response rate was 75% for the Netherlands, 67% for Switzerland, 62% for Denmark, 61% for Sweden, 59% for Belgium, and 44% for Italy. Total number of deaths studied was 20480. Death happened suddenly and unexpectedly in about a third of cases in all countries. The proportion of deaths that were preceded by any end-of-life decision ranged between 23% (Italy) and 51% (Switzerland). Administration of drugs with the explicit intention of hastening death varied between countries: about 1% or less in Denmark, Italy, Sweden, and Switzerland, 1.82% in Belgium, and 3.40% in the Netherlands. Large variations were recorded in the extent to which decisions were discussed with patients, relatives, and other caregivers. INTERPRETATION: Medical end-of-life decisions frequently precede dying in all participating countries. Patients and relatives are generally involved in decision-making in countries in which the frequency of making these decisions is high.
Comment In: Lancet. 2003 Oct 25;362(9393):1419-20; author reply 142014585656
PURPOSE: This study examines the proportion of cancer deaths occurring at home in six European countries in relation to illness and to demographic and health care factors. METHODS: Death certificate data of all cancer-related deaths in 2002 in Italy and 2003 in Belgium, the Netherlands, Norway, England, and Wales (N = 238,216) were linked with regional health care and area statistics. Multivariate binomial logistic regressions were performed to examine factors associated with dying at home. RESULTS: The percentage of all cancer deaths occurring at home was 12.8 in Norway, 22.1 in England, 22.7 in Wales, 27.9 in Belgium, 35.8 in Italy, and 45.4 in the Netherlands. Having solid cancers and being married increased the chances of dying at home in all countries. Being older and being a woman decreased the chances of dying at home, except in Italy where the opposite was the case. A higher educational attainment was associated with better chances of dying at home in Belgium, Italy, and Norway (countries where information on educational attainment was available). Better chances of dying at home were also associated with living in less urbanized areas in all countries but England. The number of hospital and care home beds seemed not to be universally strong predictors of dying at home. CONCLUSION: There are large country differences in the proportion of patients with cancer dying at home, and these seem influenced by country-specific cultural, social, and health care factors. Alongside cross-national differences, country-specific aspects need to be considered in the development of policy strategies facilitating home death.