The last 48 hours of life

Denise Barham
Clinical Nurse Specialist, Oncology Day Centre, Prince of Wales Hospital, Randwick NSW

PP: 179 - 191


This paper arose from a personal nursing reflection in which I was given the privilege of working with and nursing a patient in her last 48 hours of life.

Caring for a patient dying of cancer can, at times, be extremely difficult. Sarah was 39 years old when she died, survived by her husband and two children aged 6 and 4.

During the weeks leading up to her death, Sarah held extensive discussions with family and the multi-disciplinary team. Her goal was to live the remainder of her last few hours as comfortably as possible and to die a 'peaceful death'. Terminal care is an important phase of life, one in which individuals have the right to expect quality of care to ensure that their death occurs with dignity.

This paper provides an insight into the remaining few hours of Sarah's life discussing psychological and psychosocial support as well as management of symptoms as they arose.

Sarah practiced Buddhism on a daily basis. Issues of spirituality, serenity and peacefulness in dying were very important to her to ensure a good rebirth.

The last days of life are unique for each person. They are very personal and private. Dying people are usually less interested in the outside world and they want the closeness of only a few people - to comfort them.

I felt extremely privileged to be a part of Sarah's dying experience.


end of life; psychosocial; symptom management; patient involvement; spirituality

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