Feelings of Guilt—Experiences of Next of Kin in End-of-Life Care

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The aim of the study was to gain a greater understanding of the experiences of guilt of the next of kin in end-of-life care. Seventeen next of kin who had lost a loved one were interviewed with a focus on possible experiences of guilt. A Gadamerian-based hermeneutic approach to interpret these experiences was used. The interpretation showed that next of kin’s experiences of guilt emanated from a situation where the next of kin had a moral view on what was the right thing to do; it could also originate from a wish to do the best possible for the dying person out of love for this person. The situation could also involve both of these aspects. The way in which the situation was handled could, if the next of kin felt that he/she did not fulfill his/her commitments, have omitted or neglected the dying person or was the cause of something leads to experiences of guilt. The situation of being next of kin in end-of-life care is complex and demanding, something that health professionals are and should be aware of. Acknowledgement of experiences of guilt can help the next of kin in their adaptation to the end-of-life situation as a whole and maybe also give useful tools to support next of kin through bereavement.

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