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Physicians’ Experiences and Perceptions of Environmental Factors Affecting Their Practices of Continuous Deep Sedation until Death: A Secondary Qualitative Analysis of an Interview Study.

Vissers, S.; Dierickx, S.; Robijn, L.; Cohen, J.; Deliens, L.; Mortier, F.; Chambaere, K. Physicians’ Experiences and Perceptions of Environmental Factors Affecting Their Practices of Continuous Deep Sedation until Death: A Secondary Qualitative Analysis of an Interview Study. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2022, 19, 5472. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph19095472

Abstract

As previous research has paid little attention to environmental factors affecting the practice of continuous deep sedation until death (CDS), we aimed to explore these using physicians’ experiences and perceptions. We performed an interpretative thematic analysis of primary data from a qualitative interview study conducted from February to May 2019 in Belgium with 47 physicians. Structural factors were identified: the lack of professional and/or technical support in monitoring sedated patients; the use of guidelines in team contexts; the time constraints for treating individual patients and work pressure; the structural knowledge gap in medical education; the legal context for assisted dying; and the lack of a clear legal context for CDS. Cultural factors were identified: the moral reservations of care teams and/or institutions towards CDS; the presence of a palliative care culture within care teams and institutions; the culture of fear of making clinical errors regarding CDS among a group of physicians; the professional stigma of performing assisted dying among some of the physician population; the different understandings of CDS in medical and policy fields; and the societal taboo around suffering at the end of life and natural death. To conclude, improving CDS practice requires a whole-system approach considering environmental factors.