Current dilemmas in the assessment of suffering in palliative care.
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OBJECTIVE: Although relief from suffering is essential in healthcare and palliative care, few efforts have aimed at defining, operationalizing, and developing standards for its detection, assessment, and relief. In order to accurately explore and identify factors that contribute to suffering, more attention needs to be focused on quality assessment and measurement, not only for assessment purposes but also to test the effectiveness of interventions in relieving suffering. The scope of the present paper is to discuss the strategies that aid in the detection and assessment of the suffering experience in patients with chronic illnesses and/or in palliative care settings, and the dilemmas commonly encountered regarding the quality of available assessment measures. METHOD: A general description of instruments available for suffering assessment is provided. Matters regarding the accuracy of the measures are discussed. Finally, some dilemmas regarding the quality of the measures to screen for and assess suffering are presented. RESULTS: There have been some achievements toward adequate suffering assessment. However, a more robust theoretical background is needed, and empirical evidence aimed at supporting it is required. In addition, further examination of the psychometric characteristics of instruments in different populations and cultural contexts is needed. SIGNIFICANCE OF RESULTS: An interesting number of assessment measures are now available for use in the palliative care setting, employing innovative approaches. However, further examination and validation in different contexts is required to find high-quality tools for detection of suffering and assessment of the results of intervention.
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