Objective: This study assessed the prevalence of psychiatric
disorder among a group of terminally ill cancer patients with or without a
wish to hasten death (WTHD).
Methods: Consecutive patient referrals to a hospice inpatient
unit, home palliative care service, and hospital palliative
care-consulting service were recruited. A group of these patients
(n = 56) consented to participate in a structured clinical
interview (SCID) to identify the presence of psychiatric diagnoses.
Patients were categorised into those with or without a wish to hasten
Results: Current major depressive episode and adjustment
disorder were the most prevalent disorders in this group of patients.
Patients with a high WTHD were significantly more likely to have a current
major depressive episode compared to patients with no WTHD. Patients with
a high WTHD were also significantly more likely to have a past major
depressive episode compared to patients with no WTHD.
Significance of results: These results support the view that
terminally ill patients with a high WTHD are significantly more likely to
be suffering from a depressive disorder as assessed by a structured
clinical interview. This has important clinical implications for those
caring for dying patients who may make a request to hasten death.