Symptomatic distress, hopelessness, and the desire for hastened death in hospitalized cancer patients

J Psychosom Res. 2003 Nov;55(5):411-8. doi: 10.1016/s0022-3999(03)00526-9.


Objective: This study evaluated the desire for hastened death (DHD) in cancer patients at varying stages of disease to determine its frequency and relationship to physical and psychological distress.

Methods: Two hundred twenty-four inpatients at Princess Margaret Hospital completed questionnaires assessing pain, physical symptoms, depression, hopelessness, and DHD.

Results: There was significant physical and psychological distress in this sample with a mean of nine physical symptoms reported by each subject. Seven percent reported moderate DHD on the Schedule of Attitudes Towards Hastened Death (SAHD) and 2% reported high DHD. Hopelessness and stage of disease were the only significant independent predictors of DHD and their interaction was associated with increased DHD. Hopelessness and, less so, depression both mediated the pathways between illness-related factors and DHD.

Conclusions: Findings suggest that DHD is significantly related to hopelessness and advancing disease. Assessment of this phenomenon prior to the end of life may provide opportunities for intervention.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Attitude to Death*
  • Canada
  • Cluster Analysis
  • Depression / psychology
  • Emotions
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Inpatients / psychology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Neoplasms / therapy
  • Pain / psychology
  • Stress, Psychological* / therapy
  • Surveys and Questionnaires