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dignity therapy, family member, literature review, spiritual care



  1. Scarton, Lisa J. PhD, RN
  2. Boyken, Lara BA
  3. Lucero, Robert J. PhD, MPH, RN, FAAN
  4. Fitchett, George DMin, PhD
  5. Handzo, George MDiv
  6. Emanuel, Linda MD, PhD
  7. Wilkie, Diana J. PhD, RN, FAAN


Dignity therapy (DT) provides, for patients with a serious illness, a guided sharable life review through a protocolized interview and the creation of a legacy document. Evidence is mounting in support of the use of DT for patients with a serious illness; however, it is unclear whether DT has effects on family members. The purpose of this article was to provide a systematic literature review of the effects DT has on family members of patients who receive DT. Using a PubMed search with key terms of "Chochinov," "family," and "dignity care," a total of 18 articles published between January 2000 and July 2016 were identified and included in this review. This systematic review was helpful in identifying the strength of the evidence and gaps in the literature focused on DT and expected or actual effects on the DT recipient or family members. Findings identify the need to conduct further research related to the feasibility, acceptability, and effects of DT for family members. Future research should focus on understanding whether and how family members may benefit from receiving the legacy document and whether the timing of family member involvement plays a role in the outcomes of DT.