Innovative project brings peace to those near death

July 14, 2015, McMaster University

Asking for and honouring last wishes helps to create meaning, memories and closure at death, and personalizes the dying process for patients and their families, says a new study led by a McMaster University professor.

The research published this week in Annals of Internal Medicine is about the Three Wishes Project initiated by lead author Dr. Deborah Cook, a professor of medicine and and biostatistics with the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine and a staff physician in the (ICU) at St. Joseph's Healthcare Hamilton.

The ongoing project involved a researcher or patient's clinician sensitively eliciting three wishes to best honour the dying person from the patient, the family or other clinicians caring for the patient, and then finding a way to honour them.

"We developed this project to try to bring peace to the final days of and to ease the grieving process," said Cook. "For the patients we wanted to dignify their deaths and celebrate their lives; for , to humanize the dying experience and create positive memories; and for clinicians, to foster patient and family-centred care."

The study took place at the ICU of St. Joseph's Healthcare Hamilton. Participants in the study included 40 dying , at least one family member per patient, and three clinicians per patient.

The wishes were in five areas:

  • humanizing the environment (such as bringing favourite flowers or cherished mementoes into the room);
  • personal tributes (such as having a tea party or planting a tree in the patient's name);
  • family reconnections (such as locating a lost relative);
  • rituals and observances (having blessings or renewal of wedding vows);
  • paying it forward (such as organ donation or charitable giving).

Cook's research team interviewed families and clinicians to assess the program and found that 97.5 per cent of the requested were implemented, at a cost ranging from $0 to $200 per patient.

End-of-life care was rated high by family members and post-mortem interviews with 160 family members and provided overwhelmingly positive feedback.

One patient's son said: "It gave me peace that final day - the way she went...I think that's actually helped me in the long run...I believe it's because the death process - the dignity that was given to her and the compassion that was shown to her family - made it much easier to deal with."

A medical resident said: "It did make the experience seem dignified and peaceful. It didn't necessarily feel like we were letting someone go; it felt more like we were wishing someone well."

Explore further: UB researcher explores first-responders' role in end-of-life calls

More information: The paper may be found here: www.annals.org/article.aspx?doi=10.7326/M15-0502

Related Stories

UB researcher explores first-responders' role in end-of-life calls

July 13, 2015
Paramedics and emergency medical technicians (EMTs) are trained to save lives. But they sometimes enter situations where a dying patient's end-of-life wishes contradict their professional code.

Barriers to end-of-life care discussions identified

February 2, 2015
The most important barriers to discussions with seriously ill hospitalized patients and their families about goals of care has been outlined by a research team led by McMaster University.

Families should not be allowed to veto dead relatives' organ donation wishes

August 7, 2012
It has recently been suggested that patients should be kept alive using elective ventilation to facilitate the harvesting of organs for donation. But David Shaw, Honorary Lecturer at the University of Aberdeen believes there ...

New guidelines aim to resolve conflicts in treating critically ill patients

May 15, 2015
Who should decide what life-prolonging medical treatments the intensive care patient should receive: the clinician or the patient's family?

Physicians should help families with decisions about end-of-life care

June 15, 2015
About 20 percent of Americans spend time in an intensive care unit around the time of their death, and most deaths follow a decision to limit life-sustaining therapies.

ACP releases High Value Care advice for communicating about end-of-life care goals

November 10, 2014
Physician-patient communication about goals of care is a low risk, high value intervention for patients with a life threatening illness, the American College of Physicians (ACP) advises in a paper published in JAMA Internal ...

Recommended for you

Baltimore liquor stores linked more to violent crime than bars and restaurants

September 26, 2018
A new study from researchers at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health's Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth (CAMY) found that alcohol outlets in Baltimore that sell alcohol for off-premise consumption (such as ...

Proud of yourself for taking home leftovers? Think again

September 26, 2018
As portion sizes have grown larger and larger in the U.S., lots of restaurantgoers have taken it upon themselves to consume less, boxing up half and taking the leftovers home.

Study analyzes numbers, trends in health care data breaches nationwide

September 25, 2018
Health plans—entities that cover the costs of medical care—accounted for the greatest number of patient records breached over the past seven years, according to an analysis of U.S. health care data conducted by two Massachusetts ...

Genes may control how tough it is to stop drinking

September 25, 2018
(HealthDay)—When they give up booze, some alcoholics have more severe withdrawal symptoms than others. This discrepancy may come down to genetics, researchers say.

Why industry influence on research agendas must be addressed

September 25, 2018
Industry influence on the research agenda—and the tactics employed by tobacco, pharmaceutical, food, mining, chemical and alcohol companies to drive questions away from those most relevant to public health—is the focus ...

New study finds concurrent use of prescription drugs and dietary supplements could pose health risks

September 25, 2018
A new University of Hertfordshire study found that using certain over-the-counter herbal medicines and dietary supplements alongside prescription drugs could pose serious health risks, especially amongst older adults.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.