12 e-Letters

published between 2018 and 2021

  • Circles of care

    Many thanks for this interesting article which overviews the historical and social developments in the Western world. With respect to definition of communities in the context of compassionate communities, we defined quite specifically what this is in our article Circles of care: should community development redefine the practice of palliative care?Abel J, et al. BMJ Supportive & Palliative Care 2013;3:383–388. doi:10.1136/bmjspcare-2012-000359. Communities exist in the context of inner and outer networks, supported by the surrounding community. These networks are no longer defined by geographical boundaries as there are forms of support involving digital technology. Support is given in many ways and it is the resilience of these community networks that makes an enormous difference at end of life, as explained by Horsfall et al in their research End of life at home: Co-creating an ecology of care
    D Horsfall, A Yardley, R Leonard, K Noonan… - 2015 - researchdirect.westernsydney.edu …

  • How do you define voluntarily stopping eating and drinking?

    Dear Editor
    In this issue, Shinjo et al reported that, among Japanese home hospice physicians and palliative care specialists, 32% replied that they had experience in caring for patients who had voluntarily stopped eating and drinking (VSED). 1 Their mean years of clinical experience overall, and in the field of palliative medicine, were 26 years and 13 years, respectively. According to the authors, Japanese patients were also trying to implement VSED to hasten their deaths themselves.

    We congratulate the authors on publishing this very important epidemiologic data in Japan. As the authors point out, the study is limited by both recall and social desirability biases, which could explain some inaccuracy in their survey results. Moreover, we wonder whether the way in which VSED was defined in this study also contributed to the relatively high prevalence of physicians who had experience with this practice.

    In their questionnaire, VSED was defined as “terminal ill patients electing to stop taking water and nutrition despite the fact that they do not suffer from a difficulty in oral intake such as gastrointestinal obstruction or cachexia”. VSED is an under-recognized practice and there are few data available. Especially in Japan, as they reported, only half of the palliative care physicians were aware of VSED. While their definition was not inaccurate, it is possible that this definition failed to convey the gravity of VSED and, as a result, physicians...

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