Exploring the experience of dignified palliative care in patients with advanced cancer and families: A feasibility study in Singapore

22 September, 2020

Photo: ‘Singapore General Hospital Block 4’ from SRN’s SG Photobank

World Rose Day, which spreads awareness about cancer, is observed on 22 September every year. Palliative care is given to advanced cancer patients so that they are able to live with dignity when nearing the end of life. However, dignity remains an ambiguous concept since it varies across different populations.

In ‘Exploring the experience of dignified palliative care in patients with advanced cancer and families: A feasibility study in Singapore’ (Progress in Palliative Care, 2013), Dr Lee Geok Ling and Dr Rosaleen Ow (NUS Department of Social Work), along with their co-authors explore the experience of dignity in the Singapore context.Through interviews with four advanced cancer patients and their primary family caregiver, the research team found that the ways in which patients felt dignity encompass social, organisational, and spiritual factors. In the social dimension, the findings suggest that family care and concern helped to restore patients’ dignity. The concept of face in the Asian context also underlay the patients’ considerations in not seeking external help so as to preserve dignity. From the organisational perspective, the team found that a trusting doctor-patient-family relationship, with good communication and coordination within the healthcare system, was important in preserving dignity. Finally, ways to preserve dignity such as through pain control sometimes conflicted with patients’ religious beliefs – for example, a Hindu patient may choose to endure pain to alleviate past karma.

In conclusion, preliminary findings are similar to Western findings whereby dignity can be preserved by care that focuses on psychosocial, physical, and spiritual aspects. In addition, dignified patient care should encompass knowledge of and sensitivity to the multi-cultural practices and health beliefs of patients and their families.

Read the article here.