How important is patient dignity at end of life?

Read about how important it is to reinforce a patient's dignity nearing their end-of-life and also how to maintain it.

Dignity in healthcare is often described as a multifaceted approach to patient interactions that involve the elements of respect, empowerment, autonomy, communication, safety, acceptance, privacy, acknowledgement, fairness and more1

At the end-of-life, dignity is a concept we tend to associate with managing basic bodily functions. However, it’s more powerful than this, it’s a dying person’s perception of how they are seen by others2.

In this article we discuss just how important it is to reinforce a patient’s dignity nearing their end-of-life and also how to maintain it.

Why is dignity in end-of-life care important?

There is an intimate connection between every patient, their self-image and the way they feel they are seen by staff and carers. 

Research with the terminally ill showed that a sense of dignity can make the difference between a patient’s wish to live or die. In one research piece, two-thirds of patients at end-of-life, receiving care in a hospital felt dignity was something that could be taken away from them. In the same study, nearly every terminally ill patient receiving care in a community setting had the opposite view3.

Health care systems have a duty to safeguard every patient’s sense of value and self-esteem.

What are some principles for care that enhance patient dignity?

The following 10 principles are simple gestures your facility can either implement or use as a comparison to any current plans that are in place for maintaining a patient’s dignity4.

  1. Zero tolerance for all forms of abuse
  2. Supporting people with the same respect you would want for yourself or a member of your family, affirm the patient’s value.
  3. Treat each patient as an individual by offering a personalised service, viewing the patient apart from their disease. 
  4. Enable people to maintain the maximum possible level of independence, choice and control
  5. Listen and support people to express their needs and wants
  6. Respect people’s privacy
  7. Ensure people feel able to complain without fear of retribution
  8. Engage with family members and carers as care partners 
  9. Assist people to maintain confidence and a positive self esteem
  10. Act to mitigate people’s loneliness and isolation

How do you maintain patient dignity at the end of life?

The most important thing staff or carers can do for their patients is remember that you are still caring for an individual with unique needs, experiences, and desires. Treating them with the same level of respect you’d hope to receive in their condition with the support of your clinical team, personal, emotional and spiritual care you can do just that.

Furthermore, not only should your patient’s dignity be important near end-of-life but also after. Respecting a patient’s dignity extends to their privacy and respect to the family after they have passed. There are many steps and processes to ensure mindfulness of other patients and families emotions and it’s best to acknowledge and respond to these concerns. There is also medical equipment available that can ensure a patient’s dignity and privacy remains respected during transport.

You can view Modsel design for mortuary transport on our website. The Contour Conceal - when dignity, privacy and respect matter the most.


  1. (n.d.). Promoting Patient Dignity in Healthcare | MedPro Group. [online] Available at:  
  2. Anon, (n.d.). How to uphold patient dignity at the end of life - Palliative Care Australia. [online] Available at:  [Accessed 22 Jun. 2022]. 
  3. Anon, (n.d.). Approach | Dignity in Care. [online] Available at:  
  4. scheme=AGLSTERMS. AglsAgent; corporateName=Department for Health and Wellbeing; address=11 Hindmarsh Square, A. (2021). Dignity in Care. [online]  Available at: 

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