Original Article| Volume 60, ISSUE 3, P539-548.e1, September 2020

Factors Associated With Terminally Ill People Who Want to Die



      The decision to request and proceed with euthanasia or physician-assisted dying is complex, and predictors of such decisions are heterogeneous with regard to physical health, psychological, and social factors. Local research is therefore needed.


      To examine the interplay of demographic, clinical, and psychosocial factors routinely collected by a standardized clinical instrument, the interRAI Resident Assessment Instrument for Palliative Care (interRAI-PC), in people with a prognosis of less than 12 months who wanted to die.


      All New Zealanders who had an interRAI-PC in 2018 were included. The outcome variable was the single item Wants to die now. Independent variables included biopsychosocial factors and health index scales generated by interRAI-PC. A binary logistic regression was used to determine the predictive factors of Wants to die now (yes vs. no).


      There were 771 individuals included (mean age 76.0 years; SD 11.6; female 50.1%); 9.3% of whom reported yes to Wants to die now, 59.8% no, and for 30.9%, the assessor was unable to determine. The factors with the largest odds ratios (ORs) were awareness of terminal prognosis (OR 4.8; 95% CI 2.2–10.3), high level of depression (OR 4.6; 95% CI 1.7–12.6), not finding meaning in day-to-day life (OR 3.8; 95% CI 1.8–8.1), and pain (less than severe: OR 3.7; 95% CI 1.3–10.4 and severe to excruciating: OR 3.5; 95% CI 1.1–10.7).


      Addressing the significant factors we identified should form part of a multidisciplinary assessment when terminally ill patients express a wish to die, to ensure their physical, psychological, and existential needs are adequately met.

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