Music in palliative care

Pommeret, S. et al. | Music in palliative care: a qualitative study with patients suffering from cancer | BMC Palliative Care | Volume 18, Article number 78 (2019)




The palliative care unit is an emotionally challenging place where patients and their families may feel at loss. Art can allow the expression of complex feelings. We aimed to examine how cancer patients hospitalized in the palliative care unit experienced a musical intervention.


We conducted a qualitative study based on semi-structured interviews. The study took place in a palliative care unit from 18 January 2017 to 17 May 2017. Two artists performed in the palliative care unit once a week from 9:30 am to 5:30 pm. The data from patient interviews were analysed based on an inductive approach to the verbatim accounts.


The accounts we gathered led us to weigh the positive emotions engendered by this musical intervention against the potential difficulties encountered. The artists opened a parenthesis in the care process and brought joy and well-being to the palliative care unit. Patients also encountered difficulties during the intervention: reference to an altered general state, to loss of autonomy; a sense of the effort required, of fatigue; an adaptation period; reference to the end of life, to death; a difficulty in choosing songs.


Although music appeared to benefit the patients, it sometimes reminded them of their altered state. The difficulties experienced by patients during the experience were also related to physical exhaustion. Additional studies are needed to determine the benefits of music for patients and their families in the palliative care unit.

Full document at BMC Palliative Care

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