BACKGROUND: end-of-life decision making is an important aspect of end-of-life care that can have a significant impact on the process of dying and patients' comfort in the last days of life.
AIM: the aim of our study was to identify issues and considerations in end-of-life decision making, and needs for more evidence among palliative care experts, across countries and professions.
PARTICIPANTS: 90 palliative care experts from nine countries participated in a modified Delphi study. Participants were asked to identify important issues and considerations in end-of-life decision making and to rate the need for more evidence.
RESULTS: experts mentioned 219 issues in end-of-life decision making related to the medical domain, 122 issues related to the patient wishes and 92 related to relatives' wishes, regardless of profession or country (p > 0.05). In accordance, more than 90% of the experts rated the comfort and wishes of the patient and the potential futility of treatment as important considerations in end-of-life decision making, although some variation was present. When asked about issues that are in need of more evidence, 87% mentioned appropriate indications for using sedatives and effects of artificial hydration at the end of life. A total of 83% mentioned adequate communication approaches.
CONCLUSIONS: palliative care experts from different professions in different countries encounter similar issues in end-of-life decision making. Adequate communication about these issues is universally experienced as a challenge, which might benefit from increased knowledge. This shared experience enables and emphasizes the need for more international research.