Symptom-related distress among indigenous Australians in specialist end-of-life care: Findings from the multi-jurisdictional palliative care outcomes collaboration data

John A. Woods, Claire E. Johnson, Hanh T. Ngo, Judith M. Katzenellenbogen, Kevin Murray, Sandra C. Thompson

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Symptom relief is fundamental to palliative care. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (Indigenous) Australians are known to experience inequities in health care delivery and outcomes, but large-scale studies of end-of-life symptoms in this population are lacking. We compared symptom-related distress among Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australian patients in specialist palliative care using the multi-jurisdictional Palliative Care Outcomes Collaboration dataset. Based on patient-reported rating scale responses, adjusted relative risks (aRRs) stratified by care setting were calculated for occurrence of (i) symptom-related moderate-to-severe distress and worsening distress during a first episode of care and (ii) symptom-related moderate-to-severe distress at the final pre-death assessment. The p-value significance threshold was corrected for multiple comparisons. First-episode frequencies of symptom-related distress were similar among Indigenous (n = 1180) and non-Indigenous (n = 107,952) patients in both inpatient and community settings. In final pre-death assessments (681 Indigenous and 67,339 non-Indigenous patients), both groups had similar occurrence of moderate-to-severe distress when care was provided in hospital. In community settings, Indigenous compared with non-Indigenous patients had lower pre-death risks of moderate-to-severe distress from overall symptom occurrence (aRR 0.78; p = 0.001; confidence interval [CI] 0.67–0.91). These findings provide reassurance of reasonable equivalence of end-of-life outcomes for Indigenous patients who have been accepted for specialist palliative care.

Original languageEnglish
Article number3131
Number of pages13
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - May 2020


  • Aboriginal
  • Pain
  • Palliative care
  • Psychological distress
  • Symptom assessment
  • Terminal care

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