All patients receiving parenteral antibiotics in a palliative care unit were prospectively monitored over a 13-month period. Of 913 consecutive admissions, 41 patients received 43 courses of parenteral antibiotics. On 27 of 43 occasions, the use of parenteral antibiotics was considered helpful (62%), in eight cases it was considered unhelpful (19%) and in a further eight cases the outcome could not be assessed (19%). The sites of infection for which parenteral antibiotics were prescribed included urinary tract infections (37%), lower respiratory tract infections (26%), soft tissue/skin or wound infections (16%), purulent terminal respiratory secretions (5%) and other (16%). In this sample, urinary tract infections were more commonly associated with a positive outcome than other indications combined (88% versus 48%, respectively). There appeared to be no association between outcome of use and age of the patient (median age 70, range 37-90), underlying diagnosis (HIV versus advanced malignancy) and reason for admission (symptom control versus respite care versus terminal care). However, outcomes appeared to vary in this sample according to the palliative care phase of the patient at the time parenteral antibiotics were administered. Positive outcomes were more common in terminal- (83%) and stable-phase (71 %) patients than deteriorating- (58%) or acute-phase (38%) patients. This survey demonstrates that in specific circumstances a beneficial role exists for the use of parenteral antibiotics in a palliative care setting. The establishment of appropriate guidelines is recommended.