The National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO) in the US has clarified its stance on palliative sedation in a position statement entitled “Use of Palliative Sedation in Imminently Dying Terminally Ill Patients”.

The NHPCO considers that palliative sedation can be a treatment option for imminently dying patients with intolerable pain and who are unresponsive to other palliative interventions.

The NHPCO said that healthcare providers, patients and families should consider palliative sedation for the lowering of patient consciousness using medications to limit patient awareness of suffering that is intractable and intolerable.

The statement, approved by the NHPCO board of directors, consists of six core tenets: availability, proportionality, interdisciplinary evaluation, education, existential suffering, and relationship to euthanasia and assisted suicide.

Developed by the Palliative Sedation Task Force of the NHPCO Ethics Committee, members of the task force wanted to indentify and analyse the most robust evidence and arguments about palliative sedation, which needs to be part of evidence-based practice.