An exploration of dignity in palliative care

Palliat Med. 2003 Apr;17(3):263-9. doi: 10.1191/0269216303pm699oa.


This paper presents a qualitative study exploring the meaning of 'dignity' to patients, relatives and professionals. It examines the impact of advanced illness and treatment and the issues pertinent to caring for dignity. Depth interviews were conducted with eight patients, six relatives and seven members of the multiprofessional team. A phenomenological approach to data analysis was adopted. Dignity was found to be a complex phenomenon. It is composed of the dimensions 'being human', 'having control', 'relationship and belonging' and 'maintaining the individual self'. These dimensions seemed to be held in equilibrium by each individual. The importance of each may alter in response to threats to dignity such as advancing illness and how one is treated within it, in an attempt to cope and adapt. Caring for dignity is challenging because it involves balancing the multiple needs of both users and providers of palliative care and the different perceptions and dimensions of dignity itself.

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living / psychology
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Anecdotes as Topic
  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Family
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / psychology
  • Palliative Care*
  • Professional-Patient Relations
  • Quality of Life / psychology*
  • Self Concept*
  • Terminally Ill / psychology*