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Depression (PDQ®)

Patient Version
Last Modified: 02/12/2014

Palliative Sedation



Sedation may be considered for comfort.

Patients with advanced cancer or near the end of life may have:

  • A lot of emotional distress and physical pain.
  • Difficult and painful breathing.
  • Confusion (especially when body systems begin to fail).

Sedation can be given to ease these conditions. This is called palliative sedation. Deciding to use palliative sedation may be difficult for the family as well as the patient. The patient and family can get support from the health care team and mental health professionals when palliative sedation is used.

Choices about care and treatment at the end of life should be made while you are still able to make them.

Your thoughts and feelings about end-of-life sedation may depend on your own culture and beliefs. Some patients who become anxious facing the end of life may want to be sedated. Other patients may wish to have no procedures, including sedation, just before death. It is important for you to tell family members and health care providers of your wishes about sedation at the end of life. When you make your wishes about sedation known ahead of time, doctors and family members can be sure they're doing what you would want.