Dignity-conserving palliative care in a diverse population: A qualitative study of physicians' perspective

A F de Boer, X de Voogd*, A Meershoek, J L Suurmond

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


BACKGROUND: Preserving personal dignity is an important aim of palliative care. Little is known about how physicians perceive and preserve dignity of patients from non-western migration backgrounds. Insight in this is important given the increased demand for culturally sensitive palliative care.

AIM: To gain insight in how Dutch physicians perceive and preserve dignity in the last phase of life for patients from non-western migration backgrounds.

DESIGN: Qualitative thematic analysis of semi-structured interviews.

PARTICIPANTS: Fifteen physicians experienced in palliative care.

RESULTS: Physicians experienced dilemmas in preserving dignity of non-western patients in three situations: (a) relief of suffering in the terminal phase, (b) termination of interventions and treatment, and (c) disclosure of diagnosis. Physicians wanted to grant the needs of patients in the last phase of their lives, which was central to physicians' view on dignity, but dilemmas arose when this conflicted with physicians' other personal and professional values. To make the dilemmas manageable, physicians assessed whether needs of patients were authentic, but due to linguistic, cultural, and communication barriers, this was difficult with non-western patients. To find a way out of the dilemmas, physicians had three strategies: accept and go along with patient's wishes, convince or overrule the patient or family, or seek solutions that were acceptable for all.

CONCLUSIONS: Physicians encounter dilemmas providing palliative care for people from non-western backgrounds. Future physicians can be trained in connective strategies and seeking middle grounds to optimally preserve patients' dignity while being in concordance with their personal and professional values.

Original languageEnglish
Article number147895152100050
Pages (from-to)196-202
Number of pages7
JournalPalliative & Supportive Care
Issue number2
Early online date6 May 2021
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2022


  • Communication
  • Culture
  • Dignity
  • Health personnel
  • Migrants
  • Palliative care
  • Qualitative research
  • Terminal care
  • END
  • ILL

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