Care for the bodies of deceased cancer inpatients in Japanese palliative care units

J Palliat Med. 2010 Jan;13(1):27-31. doi: 10.1089/jpm.2009.0152.


Objectives: The aim of this study is to clarify the actual experiences and preferences of the bereaved family for the care of their deceased family member.

Methods: At 95 palliative care units in Japan, a cross-sectional nationwide survey of the bereaved families of cancer patients was performed in 2007.

Results: Of the 670 questionnaires sent to bereaved families, 492 were returned (response rate of 76%). The overall requirement to improve the end-of-life care was rated as follows: improvement needed (42.7%) and no improvement needed (58%). In total, 9.4% of the families reported that they experienced problems with the deceased body after leaving the hospital, including a change in the facial appearance (8.5%), stains on the body (8%), and an odor emanating from the body (4%). Regarding the preferences for treatment procedures, over half the families preferred not to have traditional procedures performed in which the deceased's hands are joined with a band, the jaws are tied with a band around the face to close the mouth, and the body is wrapped in a sheet. The most preferable treatment procedure was to have makeup applied lightly and moderately. Maintaining the appearance of the deceased body was related to the overall care evaluation of end-of-life care.

Conclusions: As the preferences for the care of deceased bodies are changing, end-of-life care needs to be improved with respect to culture, religious views, and the wishes of the patient and their family.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Bereavement
  • Cadaver*
  • Consumer Behavior*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Culture
  • Death
  • Family / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Inpatients*
  • Japan
  • Male
  • Neoplasms / ethnology*
  • Palliative Care*
  • Religion and Medicine