About half of cancer center staff members perceive that a dignified death is possible for cancer patients on their wards, according to a study published in Cancer.

Karin Jors, from University Medical Center Freiburg in Germany, and colleagues conducted a cross-sectional study to examine whether the circumstances for dying on cancer center wards allow for a dignified death. Physicians and nurses in 16 hospitals belonging to 10 cancer centers were surveyed regarding end-of-life care. A total of 1,131 surveys were returned.

The researchers found that half of the respondents reported rarely having enough time for care for dying patients and 55 percent noted that the rooms available for dying patients were unsatisfactory. Few respondents (19 percent) reported having been well-prepared to care for the dying (physicians, 6 percent).

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Compared with staff from other wards, palliative care staff reported much better conditions for the dying (95 percent of staff indicated that patients die with dignity in palliative care wards).

Physicians generally had a more positive perception than nurses, especially with respect to communication and life-prolonging measures. About half of respondents (57 percent) believed that dignified death was possible on their wards.

“We recommend that cancer centers invest more in staffing, adequate rooms for dying patients, training in end-of-life care, advance-care planning standards, and the early integration of specialist palliative care services,” write the authors.


  1. Jors, Karin, MA, et al. “Dying in cancer centers: Do the circumstances allow for a dignified death?” Cancer. DOI: 10.1002/cncr.28702. Septembre 8, 2014.