Pain and the choice to hasten death in patients with painful metastatic cancer

J Palliat Care. Autumn 1997;13(3):18-28.


Unrelieved pain has been cited as an important reason why cancer patients may seek to hasten their deaths. We interviewed 48 patients with painful metastatic cancer to ascertain their interest in various active and passive modes of hastening death. Ninety percent of these patients supported the general right of terminally ill patients to passive modes of hastening death and 80% supported the right to active modes such as assisted suicide and euthanasia. If they developed severe pain that could not be relieved, 80% would instruct their physician write a "do not attempt resuscitation" order, 40%-50% would want to receive suicide information or a lethal prescription from their physician, and 34% would request a lethal injection from their physician. Current pain and depression levels were not associated with interest in hastening death, but current somatic symptom burden was significantly associated with this interest.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Affect
  • Aged
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Depression
  • Double Effect Principle
  • Ethics
  • Euthanasia*
  • Euthanasia, Active*
  • Euthanasia, Active, Voluntary
  • Euthanasia, Passive
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intention
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Living Wills*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Metastasis* / physiopathology
  • Neoplasms / physiopathology*
  • Pain* / drug therapy
  • Pain* / etiology
  • Pain, Intractable
  • Religion
  • Right to Die*
  • Social Values
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Suicide, Assisted
  • Terminal Care
  • Withholding Treatment