A review on how meditation could be used to comfort the terminally ill

Palliat Support Care. 2015 Oct;13(5):1469-72. doi: 10.1017/S1478951514001308. Epub 2014 Oct 30.


Objective: Our objective was to review how meditation could comfort the terminally ill.

Method: Our methodology was a literature search, which included books, journals, papers in collections, and online databases. The main search engines employed were Google Scholar and the Durham University Library. The main databases consulted were the Christian Meditation Centre, Project Meditation, and Stress-Related Facts and Well-Being at Monash. We were specifically interested in data acquired from clinical and nonclinical trials. The arguments needed to be based on qualitative and quantitative scientific data. Papers were published between 1985 and 2014. We then subdivided the review into three subcategories: physical, emotional, and self-awareness. When reviewing each category, we put our results into tabular form. In each table, we noted the percentage of terminally ill patients (TIPs) and non-terminally ill patients (NTIPs), and whether meditation had comforted them.

Results: Our review demonstrated that there are many areas that have yet to be researched. First, very little work has been done on how meditation affects the physical health of TIPs, including such variables as blood pressure, chronic pain, and sleeping patterns. However, no research has been done on heart disease, hypertension, depression, among others. Second, virtually no research has been conducted on how meditation affects the mental health of TIPs. Notably neglected areas include anxiety, compliance, depression, and stress. Third, no research has been done on whether meditation increases self-awareness in TIPs. In each of these cases, most NTIPs reacted positively; however, no research has been done on why TIPs reacted differently.

Significance of results: Our results demonstrate the need for further research on how meditation affects terminally ill patients. In turn, this would enrich the debate on whether meditation should be prescribed for the dying.

Keywords: Meditation (transcendental and mindfulness); Mental health; Physical health; Self-awareness.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anxiety / physiopathology
  • Anxiety / psychology
  • Anxiety / therapy
  • Blood Pressure / physiology
  • Databases, Bibliographic
  • Depression / physiopathology
  • Depression / psychology
  • Depression / therapy
  • Humans
  • Meditation / methods
  • Meditation / psychology*
  • Pain Management / methods
  • Palliative Care / methods
  • Palliative Care / psychology*
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / physiopathology
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / psychology
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / therapy
  • Spirituality*
  • Terminally Ill / psychology*