Clinical management of dying patients

West J Med. 1995 Sep;163(3):268-77.


Dying is universal, and death should be a peaceful time. Myriad comfort measures are available in the last weeks before life ends. Discussions about end-of-life issues often suffer from lack of informed opinion. Palliative care experts have identified specific somatic and psychological sources of distress for dying patients and their loved ones. Pain, shortness of breath, nausea and vomiting, and fear of abandonment contribute substantially to both physical and psychological discomfort toward the end of life. Simple, effective methods exist for relieving those symptoms. Knowledge about the natural events associated with dying and an informed approach to medical and psychological interventions contribute to systematic and successful comfort care. We describe the origin of physical and psychological distress at the end of life and provide strategies for alleviating many of the discomforts.

MeSH terms

  • Analgesics, Opioid / therapeutic use
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal / therapeutic use
  • Family Health
  • Humans
  • Palliative Care*
  • Terminal Care* / psychology
  • Thanatology


  • Analgesics, Opioid
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal