Framework for continuous palliative sedation therapy in Canada

J Palliat Med. 2012 Aug;15(8):870-9. doi: 10.1089/jpm.2011.0498. Epub 2012 Jul 2.


Background: Canada does not have a standardized ethical and practice framework for continuous palliative sedation therapy (CPST). Although a number of institutional and regional guidelines exist, Canadian practice varies. Given the lack of international and national consensus on CPST, the Canadian Society for Palliative Care Physicians (CSPCP) formed a special task force to develop a consensus-based framework for CPST.

Objective: Through a preliminary review of sedation practices nationally and internationally, it was determined that although considerable consensus was emerging on this topic, there remained both areas of contention and a lack of credible scientific evidence to support a definitive clinical practice guideline. This led to the creation of a framework to help guide policy, practice, and research.

Methods: This framework was developed through the following steps: 1) literature review; 2) identification of issues; 3) preparation of a draft framework; 4) expert consultation and revision; 5) presentation at conferences and further revision; and 6) further revision and national consensus building.

Results: A thorough literature review, including gray literature, of sedation therapy at the end of life was conducted from which an initial framework was drafted. This document was reviewed by 30 multidisciplinary experts in Canada and internationally, revised several times, and then submitted to CSPCP members for review. Consensus was high on most parts of the framework.

Conclusion: The framework for CPST will provide a basis for the development of safe, effective, and ethical use of CPST for patients in palliative care and at the end of life.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Canada
  • Consensus
  • Deep Sedation / methods
  • Deep Sedation / standards*
  • Health Policy*
  • Humans
  • Hypnotics and Sedatives / administration & dosage*
  • Hypnotics and Sedatives / standards
  • Pain, Intractable / drug therapy*
  • Palliative Care / ethics
  • Palliative Care / methods
  • Palliative Care / standards*
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic


  • Hypnotics and Sedatives