Assessment Of Depression When Patients Desire A Hastened Death

Helen Scott

  • Abstract

    Patients’ mental health status is an important element of palliative and end-of-life care. However, depression is often under-recognised in terminally ill cancer patients. That is because symptoms of depression can mimic those of advanced cancer and clinicians often think that patients’ low mood is an understandable reaction to terminal illness. Depression has been associated with patients desiring a hastened death or requesting assisted suicide. Nurses are often the health professional with whom patients discuss thoughts about dying. However, nurses do not always know how best to respond to patients when they say that they want to die. When faced with desire for hastened death (DHD), it is essential that nurses assess patients for symptoms that may be indicative of depression. This article will provide an overview of the main signs and symptoms of depression. It will discuss DHD among terminally ill cancer patients and whether DHD is a clinical indicator of depression. It will then examine how nurses (working in hospitals, care homes and the community) could respond to expressions of DHD. Conflicts of interest: none

  • Contributors

    Helen Scott


    Correct at article publish date

    Helen Scott is Editor, End of Life Journal and MSc Student, Department for Palliative Care, Policy and Rehabilitation, King’s College London. Email:

    Original publishing information

    • Publisher: St Christopher's Hospice
    • Publish date: 01/01/2011
    • Volume: 1
    • Issue: 1

    Permissions: © 2015, Published by the BMJ Publishing Group Limited. For permission to use (where not already granted under a licence) please go to

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