Objectives Palliative sedation for existential suffering (PS-ES) is considered a controversial practice to control refractory suffering at the end of life. This study aims to explore Belgian palliative care physicians’ perceptions regarding the ethics of PS-ES.
Methods This nationwide qualitative study follows a Grounded Theory approach. We conducted semistructured interviews with 25 palliative care physicians working in 23 Belgian hospitals and hospices (Flanders, Brussels, Wallonia). We analysed the data using the Qualitative Analysis Guide Of Leuven and we followed the Consolidated Criteria for Reporting Qualitative Research guidelines.
Results The data revealed that Belgian palliative care physicians have difficulty characterising ES and distinguishing it from other types of suffering. They express mixed attitudes towards PS-ES and employ a wide range of ethical arguments in favour and against it, which are mainly linked to the four principles of biomedical ethics.
Conclusion Since there is a lack of consensus among Belgian palliative care physicians about PS-ES, further research is needed to clarify their attitudes. A better understanding of physicians’ underlying presuppositions can provide more insight into their perceptions of ES and PS-ES and provide further insight for establishing good practices in ES management at the end of life.
- end of life care
- terminal care
Data availability statement
Data are available on reasonable request.
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Contributors All authors were involved in the conception and design of this study. PR, SM and AR carried out all qualitative data collection. Data analysis and interpretation were performed by JO, PR and CG, and they also wrote the paper. All authors were involved in critically revising the article. All authors approved the final version of the manuscript. CG is the guarantor of the study.
Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.
Competing interests None declared.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.
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