Background: Little is known about optimal palliative and end-of-life care for American Indians and Alaska Natives (AIs/ANs).
Methods: We searched MEDLINE, the Cochrane library, EBSCOhost, (PsycINFO, CINAHL Complete), and the University of New Mexico (UNM) Health Sciences Library and Informatics Center Native Health Database for search terms related to palliative care and AIs/ANs as of December 1, 2015. We included English language, peer-reviewed articles describing palliative care projects, programs, or studies in AI/AN populations or communities. We excluded case series, opinion or reflection pieces, and dissertations and articles addressing Pacific Islanders.
Results: Our search strategy yielded 294 references, of which we included 10 publications. Study methods and outcome measures were heterogeneous, and many studies were small and/or subject to multiple biases. Common themes included the importance of culturally appropriate communication, multiple barriers to treatment, and less frequent use of advance directives than other populations.
Conclusions: Heterogeneity of study types, population, and small sample sizes makes it hard to draw broad conclusions regarding the best way to care for AIs/ANs. More studies are needed to assess this important topic.
Keywords: Alaska Native; American Indian; Native American; Native Hawaiian; palliative care; palliative medicine; terminal care.