A survey of over 9,000 people in seven different countries across Europe has shown that the majority would want to improve the quality of life in the time they had left, rather than extend it.
The survey reveals attitudes across Europe for dealing with serious illnesses such as cancer, and issues raised when caring for a close friend of relative in the last few months of life.
The telephone survey of 9,339 people was carried out by researchers from King's College London to explore attitudes to end of life care in seven European countries: Germany, England, the Netherlands, Belgium (Flanders), Portugal, Spain and Italy. The survey showed that 71% of people said they would want to improve quality of life for the time they had left; 4% would like to extend life; and 25% said both quality and extending life was equally important. Across all countries in the survey, 'being in pain' was the symptom or problem that was of most concern, followed by 'being a burden to others'.
The PRISMA group, a consortium of experts from nine European and African countries, says greater attention must be paid to quality of life alongside potentially life-prolonging treatments, as the survey shows quality of life is important to people, often more so than extending it.
A group of leading researchers and clinicians, led by Professor Irene Higginson OBE at King's College London, will call for delivery of end-of-life care across Europe to be reviewed in the light of the results, and investment in research increased, in order to meet people's needs more effectively at the end of their lives.
Irene Higginson OBE, scientific lead of PRISMA and Professor of Palliative Care and Policy at King's College London, said: “There needs to be a fundamental shift in the approach to delivering end-of-life care across Europe.” Although individuals' priorities and needs will differ, it is absolutely clear that people value highly the quality of the time they have left, she thinks.
“What we need to see is a step-change in the way policy-makers and clinicians across Europe look at end-of-life care, and ensure that people's priorities and needs inform planning and delivery of these services. Together with an increased investment in scientific research into end-of-life care, this will really make a difference to the quality of people's lives as they face their last weeks and days,” she says.
PRISMA compared the survey results with the views of nearly 800 clinicians working in end-of-life care and recommended a five-pronged approach to tackle: symptom control; emotional well-being; family support; choice for where to be cared for; and information needs.
REHACARE.de; Source: King's College London
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