Dying patients' need for emotional support and personalized care from physicians: perspectives of patients with terminal illness, families, and health care providers

J Pain Symptom Manage. 2003 Mar;25(3):236-46. doi: 10.1016/s0885-3924(02)00694-2.


This study addressed the emotional and personal needs of dying patients and the ways physicians help or hinder these needs. Twenty focus groups were held with 137 individuals, including patients with chronic and terminal illnesses, family members, health care workers, and physicians. Content analyses were performed based on grounded theory. Emotional support and personalization were 2 of the 12 domains identified as important in end-of-life care. Components of emotional support were compassion, responsiveness to emotional needs, maintaining hope and a positive attitude, and providing comfort through touch. Components of personalization were treating the whole person and not just the disease, making the patient feel unique and special, and considering the patient's social situation. Although the levels of emotional support and personalization varied, there was a minimal level, defined by compassion and treating the whole person and not just the disease, that physicians should strive to meet in caring for all dying patients. Participants also identified intermediate and advanced levels of physician behavior that provide emotional and personal support.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Critical Illness / psychology*
  • Critical Illness / therapy*
  • Family
  • Female
  • Health Personnel
  • Health Services Needs and Demand*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Physician-Patient Relations*
  • Terminal Care*