Factors contributing to evaluation of a good death from the bereaved family member's perspective

Psychooncology. 2008 Jun;17(6):612-20. doi: 10.1002/pon.1283.


Background: Although it is important to achieve a good death in Japan, there have been no studies to explore factors associated with a good death. The aim of this study was to explore factors contributing to a good death from the bereaved family members' perspectives, including patient and family demographics and medical variables.

Methods: A cross-sectional anonymous questionnaire survey for bereaved family members of cancer patients who had died in a regional cancer center and a medical chart review were conducted. We measured the results from the Good Death Inventory and family demographics. In addition, we extracted patient demographics, medical variables, and medical interventions in the last 48 h before death from a medical chart review.

Results: Of the 344 questionnaires sent to bereaved family members, 165 responses were analyzed (48%). We found, first, that death in the palliative care unit was more likely to be described as a good death compared with death on a general ward. Some significant characteristics were 'environmental comfort,' 'physical and psychological comfort,' 'being respected as an individual,' and 'natural death.' Second, we found that a patient's and family member's age and other demographic factors significantly correlated with an evaluation of a good death. In addition, life prolongation treatment and aggressive treatment such as chemotherapy in the last 2 weeks of life were barriers to attainment of a good death. Moreover, appropriate opioid medication contributed to a good death.

Conclusion: Withholding aggressive treatment and life-prolonging treatment for dying patients and appropriate opioid use may be associated with achievement of a good death in Japan.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Attitude to Death*
  • Bereavement*
  • Family / psychology*
  • Female
  • Hospice Care / psychology
  • Humans
  • Japan
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Palliative Care / psychology
  • Social Environment
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Terminal Care / psychology*