People - 21.03.2018 - 00:00 

Palliative care: Its effect on dying patients and their relatives

How does society deal with dying and death? With a focus on palliative care and its effects on patients, relatives and healthcare professionals, Domeisen Benedetti explores this issue in her doctoral thesis.

21 March 2018. "The University of St.Gallen gave me the opportunity to continue my scientific development and to research a topic that is much overlooked in the world of science," says Franzisca Domeisen Benedetti. In her thesis "Communication and Interaction at the End of Life - A Consideration of Institutionalized Palliative Care", she deals with dying and death.

The key factor: Open communication and interaction
Our society deals with dying and death in a highly contradictory way: to talk about it is a social taboo, and yet it is constantly present in the media. Franzisca Domeisen Benedetti accompanied a team of palliative care professionals during their daily work in a large hospital. "The participants gave me a hitherto unknown and deep insight into their world." While the activities of a hospital are naturally intended to heal people, palliative care interacts with dying patients and their relatives. "The analysis showed that there is tension between the specialists’ ideas and attitudes and the implementation of these in their everyday practice," says Domeisen Benedetti. "To reduce this tension, it helps to communicate and interact openly." Another important key, she says, is for the different occupational groups in the hospital to work together on an equal footing.

Positive effects on relatives

Franzisca Domeisen Benedetti was unable to investigate long-term effects on relatives and the specialists in her doctoral thesis. However, she states that the removal of the tension between the ideal and the reality of everyday professional care is known to also help the relatives of a dying patient: it reduces the psychosocial burden, and this also has a long-term effect on relatives' health. "Open communication and interaction can be seen as a public health measure for maintaining the health of the bereaved."

Combining practice and science
Domeisen Benedetti feeds the results of her thesis directly back into her practice. This is how she achieves that combination: Working in a palliative centre on the one hand, and carrying out palliative oncology research at the St.Gallen cantonal hospital on the other enables her to combine the science with the practice. In so doing, she helps to counter the overlooked nature of social aspects of the end of life.

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