To evaluate the effects on the family of a comprehensive programme of terminal cancer care, 20 close relatives of patients who had died in a Palliative Care Unit (PCU) were compared with a matched group of 20 relatives of patients who had died of cancer in other wards of the same teaching hospital. Interviewed by telephone 1 year and 2 weeks after bereavement, relatives of PCU patients report significantly fewer psychological symptoms and less lasting grief and anger than relatives of patients who had died elsewhere. Factors thought to have contributed to good outcomes were successful relief of pain, awareness by relatives of the coming death of the patient and support given to relatives after bereavement. Two case examples illustrate these findings.
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