Salud Mental

The desire to hasten death in advanced cancer patients at a Mexican palliative care service


Oscar Rodríguez-Mayoral
Leticia Ascencio-Huertas
Emma Verástegui
Marvin O. Delgado-Guay
Silvia Allende-Pérez


Introduction. The desire to hasten death (DHD) might be present in patients with advanced cancer. Multiple distressing physical and psychosocial symptoms may be related to it. There is limited literature about the characteristics of these patients in México.

Objective. To describe the prevalence and factors associated with DHD in advanced cancer patients evaluated by a palliative care psychiatrist.

Method. We conducted a cross-sectional study, including all patients referred to psychiatric assessment at the Servicio de Cuidados Paliativos of the Instituto Nacional de Cancerología in Mexico City, from January to December 2016. DHD was defined as the presence of death ideas, suicidal ideation, and/or request for euthanasia or medically assisted suicide. Patients with delirium, dementia, psychosis, or uncontrolled physical symptoms were excluded.

Results. Sixty-four patients were included in the study. Most of them were women (59%); the mean age was 49 years old (SD = 16). Of them, 64% met criteria for a major depressive disorder, 64% for generalized anxiety disorder and/or panic disorder, and 11% for substance use disorders. 44% expressed DHD. In a multivariate regression analysis predicting DHD, only one factor emerged: clinical depression (OR = 13.5, p = .002, 95% CI [02.562, 71.726]).

Discussion and conclusion. The desire to hasten death is a frequent issue for the patients evaluated at the psychiatric palliative care clinic. Depression and other distressing psychiatric pathologies were associated with DHD. Interdisciplinary interventions are needed to treat DHD. More research is warranted in order to understand the factors associated with the expression of DHD.
Desire to hasten death, advanced cancer, palliative care, depression


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