Dignity Therapy Benefits Terminally Ill Patients

But no significant difference observed in mitigating primary outcome of distress

THURSDAY, July 7 (HealthDay News) -- Terminally ill patients find dignity therapy helpful in alleviating secondary outcomes of distress, according to a study published online July 7 in The Lancet Oncology.

Harvey Max Chochinov, M.D., of the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, Canada, and colleagues examined whether dignity therapy could reduce distress or alleviate the experience for 441 patients nearing the end of their lives. Participants aged 18 years or older, with a terminal prognosis (life expectancy less than or equal to six months) and receiving palliative care in a hospital, hospice, or at home, were randomly assigned to dignity therapy (165), client-centered care (136), or standard palliative care (140), and 108, 107, and 111, respectively, were analyzed. The primary outcomes of reductions in various dimensions of distress were measured before and after the study. Secondary outcomes were measured with a survey on self-reported end-of-life experiences, completed at the end of the study.

The investigators found that there was no significant difference in alleviation of distress levels in any of the groups. Dignity therapy was found to be significantly more likely to help improve quality of life, increase a sense of dignity, alter the way patients were seen and appreciated by their family, and be helpful to the family. Spiritual well-being and lessening of sadness or depression were significantly improved in the dignity group compared to client-centered or palliative care, respectively.

"Future research exploring the beneficial effects of dignity therapy will help to unravel the psychological, spiritual, and existential complexities for an individual facing death," the authors write.

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