Ensuring adequate end-of-life care for prisoners is a critical issue. In France, data investigating the impact of laws allowing release of seriously ill prisoners are lacking.Aim:
To assess the number and characteristics of prisoners requiring palliative care in French prisons.Design:
A prospective, national survey collecting data over a 3-month period.Setting/participants:
All healthcare units (n = 190) providing care for prisoners in France. The prison population was 66,698 during the study period. Data collection concerned prisoners requiring end-of-life care, that is, with serious, advanced, progressive, or terminal illness and life expectancy <1 year.Results:
Estimated annual prevalence of ill prisoners requiring end-of-life care was 15.2 (confidence interval: 12.5–18.3) per 10,000 prisoners. The observed number of prisoners requiring palliative care (n = 50) was twice as high as the expected age- and sex-standardized number based on the general population and similar to the expected number among persons 10 years older in the free community. In all, 41 of 44 (93%) of identified ill prisoners were eligible for temporary or permanent compassionate release, according to their practitioner. Only 33 of 48 (68%) of ill prisoners requested suspension or reduction in their sentence on medical grounds; half (16/33) received a positive answer.Conclusion:
The proportion of prisoners requiring palliative care is higher than expected in the general population. The general frailty and co-existing conditions of prisoners before incarceration and the acceleration of these phenomena in prison could explain this increase in end-of-life situations among prisoners.