Culture and Palliative Care: Preferences, Communication, Meaning, and Mutual Decision Making

Academic Article


  • Palliative care is gaining acceptance across the world. However, even when palliative care resources exist, both the delivery and distribution of services too often are neither equitably nor acceptably provided to diverse population groups. The goal of this study was to illustrate tensions in the delivery of palliative care for diverse patient populations to help clinicians to improve care for all. We begin by defining and differentiating culture, race, and ethnicity, so that these terms—often used interchangeably—are not conflated and are more effectively used in caring for diverse populations. We then present examples from an integrative literature review of recent research on culture and palliative care to illustrate both how and why varied responses to pain and suffering occur in different patterns, focusing on four areas of palliative care: the formation of care preferences, communication patterns, different meanings of suffering, and decision-making processes about care. For each area, we provide international and multiethnic examples of variations that emphasize the need for personalization of care and the avoidance of stereotyping beliefs and practices without considering individual circumstances and life histories. We conclude with recommendations for improving palliative care research and practice with cultural perspectives, emphasizing the need to work in partnerships with patients, their family members, and communities to identify and negotiate culturally meaningful care, promote quality of life, and ensure the highest quality palliative care for all, both domestically and internationally.
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Cain CL; Surbone A; Elk R; Kagawa-Singer M
  • Start Page

  • 1408
  • End Page

  • 1419
  • Volume

  • 55
  • Issue

  • 5