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Priorities for treatment, care and information if faced with serious illness: A comparative population-based survey in seven European countries

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Irene J Higginson, Barbara Gomes, Natalia Monteiro Calanzani, Wei Gao, Claudia Bausewein, Barbara A Daveson, Luc Deliens, Pedro L Ferreira, Franco Toscani, Marjolein Gysels, Lucas Ceulemans, Steffen T Simon, Joachim Cohen, Richard Harding, on behalf of Project PRISMA

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)101-110
Number of pages10
JournalPalliative Medicine
Issue number2
Published1 Feb 2014


King's Authors


Background: Health-care costs are growing, with little population-based data about people's priorities for end-of-life care, to guide service development and aid discussions.

Aim: We examined variations in people's priorities for treatment, care and information across seven European countries.

Design: Telephone survey of a random sample of households; we asked respondents their priorities if faced with a serious illness, like cancer, with limited time to live' and used multivariable logistic regressions to identify associated factors.

Setting/participants: Members of the general public aged 16 years residing in England, Flanders, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal and Spain.

Results: In total, 9344 individuals were interviewed. Most people chose improve quality of life for the time they had left', ranging from 57% (95% confidence interval: 55%-60%, Italy) to 81% (95% confidence interval: 79%-83%, Spain). Only 2% (95% confidence interval: 1%-3%, England) to 6% (95% confidence interval: 4%-7%, Flanders) said extending life was most important, and 15% (95% confidence interval: 13%-17%, Spain) to 40% (95% confidence interval: 37%-43%, Italy) said quality and extension were equally important. Prioritising quality of life was associated with higher education in all countries (odds ratio = 1.3 (Flanders) to 7.9 (Italy)), experience of caregiving or bereavement (England, Germany, Portugal), prioritising pain/symptom control over having a positive attitude and preferring death in a hospice/palliative care unit. Those prioritising extending life had the highest home death preference of all groups. Health status did not affect priorities.

Conclusions: Across all countries, extending life was prioritised by a minority, regardless of health status. Treatment and care needs to be reoriented with patient education and palliative care becoming mainstream for serious conditions such as cancer.

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