The palliative care needs of patients with cancer are understood and managed well by specialist palliative care services. Patients dying of non-cancer diseases are rarely offered these services. A literature review was conducted to determine the physical and psychosocial problems of patients dying from non-cancer diseases. Studies were identified using a systematic keyword search of six electronic databases. Fourteen studies were identified and assessed according to rigour of design. Findings suggest that some patients dying of non-cancer have needs comparable with those dying of cancer. Low response rates, subject bias, and measurement bias mean that findings should be viewed with caution. More prospective, rigorously designed research is necessary to identify which patients with non-cancer diagnoses may benefit from specialist palliative care.