Understanding the concept of a "good death" among bereaved family caregivers of cancer patients in Singapore

Palliat Support Care. 2013 Feb;11(1):37-46. doi: 10.1017/S1478951511000691. Epub 2012 Mar 1.


Objective: The aim of this study was to examine the concept of a good death from the perspectives of both the dying person and the family caregiver, as perceived by bereaved family caregivers of advanced cancer patients.

Method: The data were gathered from five focus group discussions and one face-to-face qualitative interview conducted over 8 months among 18 bereaved family caregivers recruited from a local hospice. The transcripts of the focus groups and the interview were entered into NVivo Version 8 and were analyzed using the thematic approach.

Results: A good death may be understood as having the biopsychosocial and spiritual aspects of life handled well at the end of life. Five major themes were identified. These were preparation for death, family and social relationships, moments at or near death, comfort and physical care, and spiritual well-being. Differences were also noted in what is important at the end of life between the patients and caregivers. Having a quick death with little suffering was perceived to be good by the patient, but the family caregiver wanted to be able to say a final goodbye to the patient. Patients tend to prefer not to die in their children's presence but the children wished to be present for the final moment. In addition, family caregivers reported it was important for them to be able to give the patients permission to die, to feel recognized for the efforts made, and to have had a fulfilling caregiving experience.

Significance of results: Whereas there are global attributes of a good death, our findings suggest that patients and family caregivers may define a good death differently. Therefore, there is a need to respect, address, and reconcile the differences, so that all parties may have a good experience at the end of a person's life.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Asians / psychology*
  • Attitude to Death*
  • Bereavement*
  • Caregivers / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Inpatients / psychology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Singapore
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Terminal Care / psychology*