Is it normal for terminally ill patients to desire death?

Am J Psychiatry. 1986 Feb;143(2):208-11. doi: 10.1176/ajp.143.2.208.


Among 44 terminally ill patients, the majority (N = 34) had never wished death to come early. Of the remainder, three were or had been suicidal and seven more had desired early death. All 10 patients who had desired death were found to be suffering from clinical depressive illness. The methodologic difficulties encountered by the authors were the lack of a brief, efficient interview schedule suitable for debilitated patients and criteria for depressive disorder that do not depend on suicidal thoughts or on symptoms that can also be caused by physical disease.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Attitude to Death*
  • Depressive Disorder / diagnosis
  • Depressive Disorder / psychology
  • Disease / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Personality Inventory
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Psychometrics
  • Suicide / psychology
  • Terminal Care*