Belfast Telegraph

Terminally ill ‘denied the right to die at home’

By Lisa Smyth

The wishes of cancer patients who want to die at home are not being met because of late diagnosis, a major report out today has found.

The study — the first of its kind in Northern Ireland — has examined why only a third of patients die at home when over 50% of people terminally ill with cancer have said they want to be at home when they die.

Why Cancer Patients Die in Acute Hospitals, conducted by the Northern Ireland Cancer Registry and funded by the Ulster Cancer Foundation (UCF), examined patient hospital records for 695 cancer patients who died in hospital in the last six months of 2007.

The study has highlighted the importance in earlier detection for cancer patients to ensure their preferred care pathways can be implemented.

It investigated the time from diagnosis to death, as well as the preferred place of death in comparison with the actual place of death. Dr Anna Gavin, director of the Northern Ireland Cancer Registry said: “The findings of this study are significant as they identify the good work that is ongoing in palliative care but also highlights areas in need of improvement.”

The report found:

  • Almost 40% of patients who died in hospital had specifically requested to return to their usual residence.
  • The proportion of cancer patients dying at home has decreased significantly from 38% between 1983 and 1992 to 32% in 2003 to 2007.
  • Cancer deaths occurring at home varied significantly depending on where a patient lived.

The report has called for a major initiative to improve earlier recognition of cancer symptoms among both the public and healthcare professionals.


  • The report found that over a quarter of all deaths in Northern Ireland are due to cancer.
  • The average age of patients who had cancer and died in hospital was 74 years. e In 2007 one in 11 of all cancer patients died within one month of diagnosis.
  • Most of the late diagnoses were cancers of the lung or digestive organs.

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph