An integrative review of dignity in end-of-life care

Palliat Med. 2014 Jul;28(7):931-940. doi: 10.1177/0269216314528399. Epub 2014 Mar 31.


Background: Dying with dignity is regarded as a goal of quality end-of-life care. However, the meaning of dying with dignity is ambiguous, and no comprehensive synthesis of the existing literature has been published.

Aim: To synthesize the meaning of dying with dignity and to identify common aspects of dignity in end-of-life care.

Design: This is an integrative review article. Methodological strategies specific to the integrative review method proposed by Whittemore and Knafl were followed to conduct data analysis. The matrix method was used to summarize characteristics of included articles.

Data sources: Five electronic databases were searched in October 2012, with no date restriction: PubMed, CINAHL, PsycINFO, Academic Search Premier, and Social Sciences Abstracts. Theoretical reports, and both qualitative and quantitative empirical reports, focused on dignity in end-of-life care were included.

Results: Themes of dying with dignity are as follows: a human right, autonomy and independence, relieved symptom distress, respect, being human and being self, meaningful relationships, dignified treatment and care, existential satisfaction, privacy, and calm environment. Factors influencing dignity include demographic, illness-related, and treatment-/care-related factors, as well as communication. Models of dignity in end-of-life care and instruments to measure dignity were reported. Interventions to support dignity stressed physical, psychological, and spiritual supports not only to dying patients but also to family members.

Conclusion: This review clarified the meaning of dying with dignity and synthesized common aspects of dignity in end-of-life care. Further research is needed to evaluate the meaning of dying with dignity across cultures and to explore individualized dignity-based care.

Keywords: Literature review; dignity; dying with dignity; end of life; hospice care; palliative care.

Publication types

  • Review