Kings College London The desire for death may sound obscure, but sadly some people do wait for their days to end. As per a study conducted by Institute of Psychiatry at King’s scientists, patients in advanced stages of diseases seemingly show symptoms of desire for hastened death (DHD). Investigators have studied the severity, incidence and remission rate of the condition. The findings suggest that a small set of people have ongoing DHD and there are some risk factors involved in severe DHD.

Assisted dying is illegal in the U.K. This study unfolds DHD as a passive wish for death or asking for support in hastening death or ideas to commit suicide. 300 patients suffering from advanced stages of physical disease who were given palliative care in a large South London Hospice participated in the analysis. Interviews were conducted to keep a tab on the growth of DHD over time.

DHD appeared to be present in lower proportions than in earlier studies and severe DHD seemed to be a rare phenomenon. The first interview presented that 11% of patients reportedly encountered some DHD and 3.7% faced more intensified form of it. After a span of 4 weeks, the overall set reduced to 213 patients out of which 14% apparently had instances of DHD, and 3.3% had more severe DHD. This revealed a minute rise in the proportion of patients with DHD.

Dr Annabel Price at the Institute of Psychiatry elaborated, “This is the first study of its kind in the UK and is particularly topical given the ongoing debate around the legalisation of assisted suicide. The results showed that 11% of the patients reported any DHD. More severe or persistent DHD was uncommon in the sample (4%) and for the most part remitted to some extent over the study period.”

The second observation of scientist was that persistent DHD was an uncommon occurrence and that most patients gave away their plans to some degree in the due course of time. Almost 35% of individuals, who reported signs of DHD in the first interview, seemingly did not feel the same 4 weeks later. Only 1 participant presumably felt intense desire over the time period. The investigation showed inconsistency of DHD.

The final phase of the study was to examine its risk variables. There seemed to be a link between non-cancer patients and DHD. Some of the major risk factors were inclusive of depression, suicidal thoughts, patients’ physical, emotional and cognitive working, along with thoughts of hopelessness and perceived loss of respect. With increase in social circle and support, the feeling of the aforesaid condition supposedly reduced.

Comprehension of these risks could help in greater awareness of specific intervention in palliative care services. According to Professor Matthew Hotopf, an early diagnosis of depression combined with an objective of social support, optimizing function, coping mechanisms, incorporating hope and preserving a sense of dignity are some ways in which DHD can be reduced among patients with advanced diseases.

The study is published in the British Medical Journal Supportive & Palliative Care.