There is a steady increase in the number of people dying within the walls of forensic institutions across the world. This escalation is, to a large extent, because of an aging population. There is a need to explore how palliative care can be delivered in these settings where, historically, security has been the main focus.
The aims of this study were to explore staff experiences of providing palliative care in a forensic mental health unit and to establish the subjective significance of those experiences.
A qualitative, descriptive, case study approach was used. This study examined staff perspectives of provision of palliative care to a long-term service user who had been diagnosed with a life-limiting illness and who subsequently died. Interviews were analyzed using codebook thematic analysis.
There were nine in-depth interviews with staff who were involved in the service user's care. Analysis resulted in five main themes: intrinsic dignity, “It was out of our depth,” “It's just the way these places are,” “Hospital was the practical place,” and specialist services.
If equitable access to palliative care is a human right, then it is essential that individuals in secure care with mental illness are able to access palliative care services that are responsive to their needs. Forensic mental health services need to be proactively prepared for the inevitability that people will die in their care.