Assessment of the wish to hasten death in patients with advanced cancer: A comparison of 2 different approaches

Psychooncology. 2018 Jun;27(6):1538-1544. doi: 10.1002/pon.4689. Epub 2018 Apr 10.


Introduction: The Desire for Death Rating Scale (DDRS) and the short form of the Schedule of Attitudes toward Hastened Death (SAHD-5) are different approaches to assessing the wish to hasten death (WTHD). Both have clinical threshold scores for identifying individuals with a meaningfully elevated WTHD. However, the agreement between the 2 measures and patient opinions about assessment of the WTHD are unknown.

Objectives: To compare the DDRS and SAHD-5 and to analyze patient opinions about assessment of the WTHD.

Methods: The WTHD was assessed in 107 patients with advanced cancer using both the DDRS and SAHD-5. Patients were subsequently asked their opinion about this assessment.

Results: Correlation between scores on the SAHD-5 and the DDRS was moderate, Spearman rho = 0.67 (P < .01). The SAHD-5 identified 13 patients (12.1%) at risk of the WTHD, and the DDRS identified 6 patients (5.6%) with a moderate-high WTHD (P > .05). Concordance between the DDRS and SAHD-5 in identifying individuals with an elevated WTHD was poor when using recommended cut-off scores, κ = 0.37 (P < 0.01) but could be improved by using different thresholds. Only 4 patients (3.8%) regarded the assessment questions as bothersome, and 90.6% considered it important that health-care professionals inquire about the WTHD.

Conclusions: The SAHD-5 and DDRS appear to be appropriate methods for assessing the WTHD and could provide complementary information in clinical practice: the SAHD-5 to screen for risk of the WTHD and the DDRS as a clinical interview to explore it in greater detail. Assessment of the WTHD is well accepted by palliative care cancer patients.

Keywords: advanced cancer; assessment; cancer; desire to die; oncology; palliative care; patient perspective; wish to hasten death.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Attitude to Death
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Palliative Care / psychology
  • Quality of Life / psychology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires / standards*
  • Terminally Ill / psychology*