The turning point: Clinical identification of dying and reorientation of care

J Palliat Med. 2006 Dec;9(6):1348-58. doi: 10.1089/jpm.2006.9.1348.


Palliative care is increasingly organized within the setting of formal health care systems but the demarcation has become unclear between, on the one hand, care directed at cure and rehabilitation and palliative care aimed at relief of suffering on the other. With the purpose to increase the understanding about the turning point reflecting identification of dying and reorientation of care, this study explores this phenomenon as determined from health care records of a representative sample (n = 229). A turning point was identified in 160 records. Presence of circulatory diseases, sporadic confinement to bed, and deterioration of condition had a significant impact upon the incidence of such turning point. The time interval between the turning point and actual death ranged between one and 210 days. Thirty percent of these turning points were documented within the last day of life, 33% during the last 2-7 days, 19.5% during the last 8-30 days, 13% during the last 31-90 days, and 4.5% during the last 91-210 days of life. The time interval between the turning point and actual death was significantly longer among individuals with neoplasm(s) and significantly shorter among individuals suffering from musculoskeletal diseases. Perhaps this reflects a discrepancy between the ideals of palliative care, and a misinterpretation of the meaning of palliative care in everyday clinical practice. The findings underscore that improvement in timing of clinical identification of dying and reorientation of care will likely favour a shift from life-extending care to palliative care.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Decision Making
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medical Audit
  • Middle Aged
  • Palliative Care*
  • Sweden
  • Terminally Ill*
  • Triage*