Although previous research has indicated some recurrent themes and similarities between what patients from different cultures regard as a good death, the concept is complex and there is lack of studies from the Nordic countries. The aim of this study was to explore the perception of a good death in dying cancer patients in Sweden.
Interviews were conducted with 66 adult patients with cancer in the palliative phase who were recruited from home care and hospital care. Interviews were analysed using qualitative content analysis.
Participants viewed death as a process. A good death was associated with living with the prospect of imminent death, preparing for death and dying comfortably, e.g., dying quickly, with independence, with minimised suffering and with social relations intact. Some were comforted by their belief that death is predetermined. Others felt uneasy as they considered death an end to existence. Past experiences of the death of others influenced participants' views of a good death.
Healthcare staff caring for palliative patients should consider asking them to describe what they consider a good death in order to identify goals for care. Exploring patients' personal experience of death and dying can help address their fears as death approaches.
The aim of this study was to explore the experiences and preferences of terminally ill cancer patients regarding truth telling in the communication of poor prognoses.
We recorded and transcribed interviews with 45 patients who knew their cancer was terminal, and analyzed their responses hermeneutically.
Patients identified three different modes of truth: (1) the absolute objective truth that they are dying; (2) the partial truth about their condition including some facts but not all of the details; and (3) the desired truth, originating in the patient's own beliefs about a healthy or better life. Coping strategies were related to patients' preferred mode of truth: (1) facing the truth in order to take action; (2) facing some parts of the truth in order to maintain hope; and (3) hovering between facing and avoiding the truth. In their struggle for existential survival, patients used different coping strategies, changing from one to another depending upon the circumstances.
Varying use of different coping strategies impacts on patient preferences concerning communication about bad news with their doctors. Truth-telling entails more than merely providing information related to the forthcoming death. It also concerns how physicians or other healthcare staff can support the patient's existential survival by fine-tuning the communication of "truth" according to the individuals' preferences.