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Palliative sedation for intolerable suffering

Maltoni, Marcoa; Scarpi, Emanuelab; Nanni, Orianab

doi: 10.1097/CCO.0000000000000097
SUPPORTIVE CARE: Edited by Jean A. Klastersky

Purpose of review The purpose of this review is to provide an update on palliative sedation in palliative and end-of-life care. Palliative sedation is the medical procedure used to deal with refractory symptoms in advanced cancer patients when all other specific approaches have failed.

Recent findings Palliative sedation, in the strictest sense of the term, is a proportionate (proportionate palliative sedation, PPS) and intrinsically variable procedure used on an individual basis to relieve refractory symptoms in terminally ill patients, without the intention of hastening death. Completely separate from any other end-of-life decision and not intended to hasten death, palliative sedation has been shown not to have a detrimental impact on survival.

Summary To maintain palliative sedation as a legitimate clinical procedure from any ethical or clinical point of view, it must be limited to the restricted area for which it was conceived, that is, relief from refractory suffering as deemed necessary by a patient and by an experienced palliative care team. In this way, there is no risk of associating palliative sedation with other end-of-life decisions. Close collaboration is needed between oncologists and palliative care physicians for this clinical procedure.

aPalliative Care Unit

bUnit of Biostatistics and Clinical Trials, Istituto Scientifico Romagnolo per lo Studio e la Cura dei Tumori (IRST) IRCCS, Meldola, Italy

Correspondence to Marco Maltoni, MD, Palliative Care Unit, Istituto Scientifico Romagnolo per lo Studio e la Cura dei Tumori (IRST) IRCCS, Via P. Maroncelli 40, 47014 Meldola, Italy. Tel: +39 0543 733332; fax: +39 0543 738803; e-mail:

© 2014 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.