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When Death Is Imminent: Where Terminally Ill Patients With Cancer Prefer to Die and Why

Tang, Siew Tzuh RN, DNSc


End-of-life care strives to honor terminally ill patients’ preferences regarding the way of dying. Scholars defined one domain of quality of dying and death as dying at the place of one’s choice. Despite efforts over more than two decades and more than 40 studies to investigate the influencing factors associated with the place of death for terminally ill patients with cancer, there is a notable lack of empirical data examining the reasons why terminally ill patients with cancer choose a specific setting as their preferred place of death. An exploratory and descriptive study was conducted to explore the preferences of terminally ill patients with cancer for the place of death, to identify the reasons for selecting a preferred place of death, and to examine the importance of dying at a place one prefers. A convenience sample of 180 terminally ill patients with cancer was recruited from four tertiary care hospitals and two home care programs in Connecticut. Nearly 90% of the subjects preferred to die at home. Quality of life, availability and ability of family caregivers, concerns of being a burden to others, long-standing relationships with healthcare providers, and quality of healthcare were the major considerations in decision making regarding the place of death. Terminally ill patients with cancer acknowledged dying at their preferred place of death as highly important. Effective nursing interventions need developing to facilitate death at a place that is in accord with dying patients’ preferences.

From the National Yang-Ming University, School of Nursing, Taipei, Taiwan, Republic of China.

This research was funded by the ONS Foundation through an unrestricted grant from the Roxane Laboratories and Mary Lewis, Manager Palliative Care Education.

Corresponding author: Siew Tzuh Tang, RN, DNSc, National Yang-Ming University, School of Nursing, #155, Sec. 2, Li-Nong Street, Taipei, Taiwan, Republic of China (e-mail:

Accepted for publication February 8, 2003.

© 2003 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.