Desire for hastened death among patients with advanced AIDS

Psychosomatics. 2006 Nov-Dec;47(6):504-12. doi: 10.1176/appi.psy.47.6.504.


The recent debate over legalization of physician-assisted suicide has fueled interest in understanding factors that lead medically ill patients to seek a hastened death. The authors investigated the prevalence and predictors of desire for hastened death in 372 patients with advanced AIDS who were newly admitted to a palliative-care facility. Clinician-rated and self-report measures of desire for hastened death, depression, hopelessness, spiritual well-being, social support, pain, and physical symptom burden were administered to assess the factors that correspond to a high desire for death. The prevalence ranged from 4.6% to 8.3%, significantly lower than in previous studies of patients with advanced or terminal cancer. Multivariate models revealed significant and unique effects for both hopelessness and depression, with these variables accounting for a large proportion of the variance in each model. Authors discuss the implications of these findings for palliative care practice and the assisted-suicide debate.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome / psychology*
  • Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome / therapy*
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Attitude to Death*
  • Depressive Disorder / psychology*
  • Depressive Disorder / therapy*
  • Euthanasia, Active, Voluntary*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • New York City / epidemiology
  • Palliative Care*
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Suicide, Assisted / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Terminal Care
  • Terminally Ill / psychology*