Our objective in this study was to summarize the relevant knowledge on depression in palliative care and to provide a framework for clinical, scientific and educational efforts at improving its management. The Research Steering Committee (RSC) of the European Association of Palliative Care (EAPC) established an Expert Working Group (EWG) to address the issue of depression in palliative care. Each invited expert was allocated a specific topic and was asked to review the literature. These reviews were presented during the Sixth Congress of the EAPC in 1999 and then discussed in a closed meeting with members of the RSC. Based on these reviews, and the discussions that followed their presentation, a first draft of the paper was produced and circulated among the invited experts and members of the RSC who had been present at the meetings. After some debate the manuscript was revised, and a second draft was circulated, this time also to RSC members who had not attended the meetings. All persons consulted have agreed on this final version of the report. The EWG concluded that the current level of evidence did not lend itself to the development of clinical guidelines and decided to publish the results of their work as a pragmatic report. The report is divided into four sections, focusing on detection, training and nonpharmacological and pharmacological treatment of depression in palliative care. For each of these sections, general considerations are addressed on the basis of the literature review and of clinical experience and a short description of unresolved issues and recommendations is provided. Underdetection and undertreatment of depression is a serious problem in palliative care. Training of the nonpsychiatric staff should therefore have the highest priority. A proactive, flexible and comprehensive strategy embracing clinical, scientific, and educational aspects is advocated.