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Good death from cancer–the patient view: systematic review of qualitative studies
  1. Guiyun Wang1,
  2. Jinnan Xiao2,
  3. Zhihan Chen2,
  4. Chongmei Huang2,
  5. Yinghua Deng2 and
  6. Siyuan Tang2
  1. 1 School of Nursing, Shandong Xiehe University, Jinan, Shandong, China
  2. 2 Xiangya School of Nursing, Central South University, Changsha, Hunan, China
  1. Correspondence to Dr Jinnan Xiao, Central South University, 410000 Changsha, Hunan, China; jnxiao2021{at}


Background and objective An in-depth understanding of what constitutes a good death among patients with cancer is vital to providing patient-centred palliative care. This review aimed to synthesise evidence on the perceptions of a good death among patients with cancer.

Methods This systematic review involved a synthesis of qualitative data. A three-step process suggested by the Joanna Briggs Institute was used to synthesise the data.

Results A total of 1432 records were identified, and five articles met the inclusion criteria. Seven synthesised findings emerged: (1) being aware of cancer, (2) pain and symptom management, (3) dying well, (4) being remembered after death, (5) individual perspectives of a good death, (6) individual behaviours leading to a good death, and (7) culture and religions. A structural framework was developed to elicit two layers that could be regarded as determinants of a good death. One layer suggested how multiple external issues impact a good death, whereas the other layer involves patients’ internal attributes that shape their experiences of a good death. The elements in the two layers were inter-related to exert a crossover effect on good death in specific cultural and religious contexts.

Conclusion A good death is a process initiated from the time of awareness of cancer and extends beyond demise. Holistic approaches encompassing the management of physical and psychological distress along with psychosocial behavioural interventions to enhance patients’ positive perspectives and behaviours are recommended to improve their quality of life and death.

  • cancer
  • end of life care
  • quality of life
  • supportive care

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  • Contributors All authors have made substantial contributions to the manuscript. GW and JX designed the study and drafted the manuscript. ZC was involved in the study selection, data extraction and data synthesis. CH, YD and ST were involved in data synthesis and critically revised the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

  • Funding The study was funded by Natural Science Foundation of Hunan Provincial (no. 2022JJ40650) to cover the fees for language editing.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Supplemental material This content has been supplied by the author(s). It has not been vetted by BMJ Publishing Group Limited (BMJ) and may not have been peer-reviewed. Any opinions or recommendations discussed are solely those of the author(s) and are not endorsed by BMJ. BMJ disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on the content. Where the content includes any translated material, BMJ does not warrant the accuracy and reliability of the translations (including but not limited to local regulations, clinical guidelines, terminology, drug names and drug dosages), and is not responsible for any error and/or omissions arising from translation and adaptation or otherwise.