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‘Letting go’: respecting a patient’s wishes at the end of life
  1. Claire S Nunn, Senior Ward Sister
  1. Claire S Nunn is Senior Ward Sister, Tressell Ward, Conquest Hospital, St Leonards-on-Sea, East Sussex. Email: claire.nunn{at}


Caring for patients at the end of life presents many challenges for healthcare professionals. Disease and dying trajectories can be uncertain and unpredictable. Advances in treatment options can cause healthcare dilemmas in terms of complex decision-making at the end of life. Nurses and other healthcare professionals need to be skilled communicators and support patients to make decisions about treatment. They must also remain accountable for their practice within an ethical and legal framework. This article discusses how a ward team of healthcare professionals worked with a patient and his family to meet the patient’s wishes and needs at the end of his life. The patient had suffered a cerebral vascular incident. His condition had been stabilised in intensive care. He was then transferred to a medical ward where he made it clear that he no longer wanted to be treated actively. Permission to publish this case was granted by the patient’s family. A pseudonym has been used to maintain confidentiality (Nursing and Midwifery Council, 2008). Conflicts of interest: none

  • Acute hospital care
  • Autonomy
  • Communication
  • Intensive care
  • Decision-making
  • End-of-life care
  • Mental Capacity Act 2005
  • Withdrawal of treatment

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