Purpose of review Death
is a certainty in life. Yet, the timing of death
is often uncertain. When death
occurs suddenly and earlier than anticipated, it is considered as an unexpected death
. In this article, we shall discuss when is death
expected and unexpected, and review the frequency, impact, causes, and approach to unexpected death
in the palliative care
Even in the palliative care
setting in which death
is relatively common, up to 5% of deaths in hospice and 10% of deaths in palliative care
units were considered to be unexpected. Unexpected death
has significant impact on care, including unrealized dreams and unfinished business among patients, a sense of uneasiness and complicated bereavement among caregivers, and uncertainty in decision making
among healthcare providers. Clinicians may minimize the impact of unexpected events by improving their accuracy of prognostication, communicating the uncertainty with patients and families, and helping them to expect the unexpected by actively planning ahead. Furthermore, because of the emotional impact of unexpected death
on bereaved caregivers, clinicians should provide close monitoring and offer prompt treatment for complicated grief.
Further research is needed to understand how we can better predict and address unexpected events.