Kim K, Churilov L, Huang A, Weinberg L.
To ascertain bereavement practices offered by hospitals and medical practitioners (MPs), factors that influence the likelihood of MPs' involvement in funeral attendance, the benefits and barriers to attendance to a patient's funeral as perceived by MPs and the rate of attendance to patients' funeral by MPs.
MEDLINE (Ovid), Embase, PubMed, and Google Scholar were searched with a systematic search structure for randomized controlled trials, comparative observational studies, case series, cross-sectional studies, editorials, and letters. The search was limited to English only. The study was registered with Prospero (Registration Number: CRD42018095368).
A total of 381 articles were identified with 46 articles meeting the inclusion criteria. Of the 46, 16 were editorials and 12 were letters. Eighteen were cross-sectional studies conducted in the United States, Canada, Australia, Israel, and Ireland. Year of publication ranged from 1990 to 2017. Of these, 12 were quantitative, 3 were qualitative, and 3 were mixed-method studies. Two of the cross-sectional studies involved family members of deceased patients while others involved MPs. Bereavement practices offered by hospitals included memorial services, letters, and services provided by bereavement coordinators. Bereavement practices employed by MPs included answering or making phone calls, attending family meetings, and sending condolence letters. MPs' attendance at a patient's funeral was influenced by MPs' gender, age years of experience the medical specialty. Perceived benefits of MPs' attendance at a patient's funeral included providing support to the family, extending the professional relationship, illustrating respect to the patient and the family, resolving guilt and personal growth. Barriers to the attendance included a lack of time, blurring of professional boundaries, personal discomfort with death, emotional arousal, and discouragement by colleagues. General practice had an attendance rate of 71%. Attendance rates for palliative care, oncology, and psychiatrists ranged from 63% to 81%, 7.1% to 67%, and 15% to 67%, respectively. Intensivists had an attendance rate of 22%.
Several bereavement practices are provided by hospitals and MPs. Funeral attendance is an uncommon bereavement practice. MPs' attitudes toward attending a patient's funeral are understudied in many specialties. Patient factors that influence MPs' participation in bereavement practices are poorly understood.