The schedule of attitudes toward hastened death: Measuring desire for death in terminally ill cancer patients

Cancer. 2000 Jun 15;88(12):2868-75. doi: 10.1002/1097-0142(20000615)88:12<2868::aid-cncr30>;2-k.


Background: The authors examined the reliability and validity of the Schedule of Attitudes toward Hastened Death (SAHD), a self-report measure of desire for death previously validated in a population of individuals with the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), among terminally ill patients with cancer.

Methods: The authors interviewed 92 terminally ill cancer patients, all with a life expectancy of < 6 months, after admission to a palliative care hospital. Patients were administered the SAHD, a clinician-rated measure of desire for death (the Desire for Death Rating Scale [DDRS]), and several measures of physical and psychosocial well-being.

Results: The average number of SAHD items endorsed was 4. 76 (standard deviation, 4.3); 15 patients (16.3%) endorsed > or = 10 items, indicating a high desire for death. Internal consistency was strong (coefficient alpha = 0.88, median item-total correlation = 0. 49), as were indices of convergent validity. Total SAHD scores were correlated significantly (correlation coefficient [r] = 0.67) with the DDRS, and somewhat less so with measures of depression (r = 0. 49) and hopelessness (r = 0.55). Lower, but substantial, correlations were observed between the SAHD and measures of spiritual well-being (r = -0.42), quality of life (r = -0.36), physical symptoms (r = 0.38), and symptom distress (r = 0.38). No significant correlation was observed between SAHD scores and social support (r = -0.06) or pain intensity (r = 0.16); however, pain-related functional interference and overall physical functioning were correlated significantly with SAHD scores (r = 0.31 and r = -0.23, respectively).

Conclusions: The SAHD appears to be a reliable and valid measure of desire for death among terminally ill cancer patients. Coupled with previous research in patients with AIDS, these results support the utility of the SAHD for research addressing interest in hastened death in patients with a life-threatening medical illness.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome / psychology*
  • Aged
  • Attitude to Death*
  • Euthanasia*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Palliative Care
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Self-Assessment*
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Suicide, Assisted*
  • Terminally Ill*