Care of the dying: setting standards for symptom control in the last 48 hours of life

J Pain Symptom Manage. 2001 Jan;21(1):12-7. doi: 10.1016/s0885-3924(00)00240-2.


The hospice model of care of the dying patient is regarded as a model of excellence; however, outcomes of this care have been poorly demonstrated. Integrated Care Pathways (ICPs) provide a method of recording and measuring outcomes of care. The ICP document replaces all previous documentation and is a multiprofessional record of patient care. The aim of this study was to implement an ICP in an inpatient hospice setting in order to set standards of care for symptom control in the dying phase of a patient's life. ICPs were analyzed from 168 inpatients who died over a one-year period. Symptoms of pain, agitation, and respiratory tract secretions (RTS) were monitored every four hours by nursing staff as either present or absent. For each symptom, 80% of patients had one episode or complete control of the symptom, 10% had two episodes, and 10% had three episodes or more recorded. As death neared, there was a statistically significant increase in the number of patients whose pain was controlled. The ICP has provided a means to measure symptom control in the dying patient and set standards of care, which is integrated into clinical practice.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Critical Pathways / standards
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medical Records
  • Middle Aged
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care / methods
  • Palliative Care
  • Respiration Disorders / therapy
  • Terminal Care / standards*