A Burden to Others: A Common Source of Distress for the Terminally Ill

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Abstract:

Recent research into the desire for death among people with terminal illness has begun to recognize the importance of “feeling oneself a burden to others” as a factor in suicidal behaviour. In this study, 69 patients with advanced cancer underwent semi-structured interviews. The sense of self-perceived burden was found to be a common experience, reported by 39.1% of participants as a minimal or mild concern and by 38% as a moderate to extreme concern. The sense of burden showed a low correlation with physical symptoms ( r ??=??0.02–0.24) and higher correlations with psychological problems ( r ??=??0.35–0.39) and existential issues ( r ??=??0.45–0.49). Comparisons of participants with high or low levels of self-perceived burden showed the importance of this factor for overall quality of life. In summary, self-perceived burden is an important but underestimated dimension of social cognition in the medically ill.

Keywords: anxiety; burden to others; cancer; suicide; depression; dignity; euthanasia; palliative care

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/16506070510008461

Affiliations: √Člisabeth Bruy√®re Research Institute, SCO Health Service, Ottawa, Canada

Publication date: June 1, 2005

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