Variation in attitudes towards artificial hydration at the end of life: a systematic literature review


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PURPOSE OF REVIEW: Artificial hydration in end-of-life care is an important and emotive topic that frequently raises concerns from patients, relatives and healthcare professionals (HCPs). The aim of this review was to give an overview of currently available evidence around opinions and attitudes towards artificial hydration at the end of life.

RECENT FINDING: In total 11 studies reported on opinions towards providing artificial hydration, nine studies reported on attitudes towards the effect of artificial hydration on quality-of-life and four studies towards its effect on survival. Reported percentages of respondents in favour of providing artificial hydration at the end of life varied from 22 to 100% and for nonprovision from 0 to 75%. One-third of the general public has been found to think that artificial hydration improves comfort, while among patients a majority feels it can have a physical or psychological benefit. HCPs were found to be less optimistic: 1-43% thought patients benefit from artificial hydration at the end of life. HCPs mostly agree artificial hydration does not prolong survival, although up to 89% of patients expect it does.

SUMMARY: Opinions and attitudes towards the use of artificial hydration at the end of life vary. Communication of this imperative topic in end-of-life care is important for better care and should be research-based.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)265-72
Number of pages8
JournalCurrent Opinion in Supportive and Palliative Care
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Communication
  • Euthanasia, Passive/ethics
  • Fluid Therapy/ethics
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms
  • Palliative Care/methods
  • Quality of Life/psychology

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