Social-cultural factors in end-of-life care in Belgium: a scoping of the research literature

E.V.W. Andrew, J. Cohen, N. Evans, A. Meñaca, R. Harding, I. Higginson, R. Pool, M. Gysels

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15 Citations (Scopus)


Background: As end-of-life (EoL) care expands across Europe and the world, service developments are increasingly studied. The sociocultural context in which such changes take place, however, is often neglected in research.

Aim: To explore sociocultural factors in EoL care in Belgium as represented by the literature.

Design: A scoping of the empirical research literature following a systematic search procedure with a focus on thematic analysis based on the literature findings.

Data sources: Searches were carried out in eight electronic databases, five journals, reference lists, and grey literature (through September 2010). Articles informing about sociocultural issues in EoL care were included.

Results: One hundred and fifteen original studies met the inclusion criteria, the majority (107) published between 2000 and 2010. Four major themes were: Setting; Caregivers; Communication; and Medical EoL Decisions (the largest category). Minority Ethnic Groups was an emerging theme. Gaps included: research in Wallonia and Brussels; the role and experiences of informal caregivers; issues of access to palliative care; and experiences of minority ethnic groups. There was a paucity of in-depth qualitative studies.

Conclusions: Various sociocultural factors influence the provision of EoL care in Belgium. This country provides a unique opportunity to witness how euthanasia is put into practice when legalized, in a context where palliative care is also highly developed and where many health care institutions have Catholic affiliation, providing an important example to others. Attention to how the sociocultural context affects EoL care adds to the current evidence base of service provision, which is essential in the further development of EoL care.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)131-143
JournalPalliative medicine
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2013

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