Randomized controlled trials in palliative care: overcoming the obstacles

Int J Palliat Nurs. 2001 Sep;7(9):427-34. doi: 10.12968/ijpn.2001.7.9.9301.


Problems associated with conducting randomized controlled trials (RCTs) in palliative care are well documented. Palliative care researchers commonly report difficulties with recruitment, attrition, and randomization. Despite these difficulties, there is a crucial need to enhance the evidence base of palliative care and RCTs are a recognized method for achieving this. Few publications to date have provided clear strategies for researchers considering RCTs in palliative care. This article presents an overview of the features of the RCT and reasons for using this research method. Problems with conducting RCTs are considered with discussion focusing on an approach for managing these hurdles. Examples are provided from an ongoing RCT investigating a support and information programme for lay caregivers of people receiving palliative care at home. The aim of the article is to provide a guide to conducting RCTs and to promote their use in palliative care when researchers are evaluating new interventions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Nursing Care*
  • Palliative Care*
  • Patient Selection
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic / methods*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic / standards
  • Sample Size