Purpose Excellent end-of-life care considers patient beliefs about the optimal time to die. Since no research describes such beliefs, we studied them by two likely influences, ethnic group and gender.
Methods We conducted open-ended interviews with 26 Mexican American (MA), 18 European American (EA), and 14 African American (AA) men and women. A consensus-based content analysis identified themes. Because some subjects responded several ways about a theme, percentages may add to over 100%.
Results Majorities of MA and EA men and sizable minorities of the other four groups noted the inevitability of death (see the Table). Further, majorities or near-majorities of all ethnic-gender groups said God determines the optimal time to die. Subjects also cited other factors that might determine that time.
Conclusions Though largely agreeing about God as a determinant of the optimal time to die, these ethnic-gender groups differed widely about other possible determinants (such as patient preferences, family circumstances, lack of human causation, and illness severity). Given such diversity, sensitive end-of-life care requires that health professionals know each patient's beliefs and tailor care accordingly.
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