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Next of Kin’s Notification of Patient’s Death: A Qualitative and Quantitative Preliminary Analysis

Journal title
The American journal of hospice & palliative care
Publication year
Menahem, S.; Samson, T.; Shvartzman, P.

BACKGROUND: There are no published studies on notification of death by a next of kin to the treating medical staff. AIM: To explore the content and circumstances of death notifications by next of kin to the treating medical staff in a palliative home care unit. DESIGN: A cross-sectional study that combines qualitative and quantitative analysis. SETTING: Assessment of 153 telephone death notifications by a next of kin to the treating medical staff. RESULTS: The qualitative analysis of death notifications revealed 2 themes: direct and indirect death notifications. In direct notifications, death was portrayed by the notifier in direct and specific words such as death, the patient has died, or the patient is not alive. Indirect notifications included nonspecific or general descriptions of death such as breath cessation, it ended, or it’s over or finished. Direct notifications tended to include specific requests from the medical staff and expressed acceptance and closure, while indirect notifications tended to include more general requests and expressed more panic, distress, or doubt in death. Although spouses were more likely to serve as the primary caregiver, the children or other family members were more likely to notify the treating staff. In 30% of the notifications, there was an element of doubt or uncertainty. Emotions were expressed in 20% of the notifications. Cessation of breathing was the most common physical sign mentioned. CONCLUSION: Medical staff members who receive notifications of death should expect and be prepared for the expression of varied emotions and doubts as an integral part of the notification.

Research abstracts