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Table 1 Case vignettes based on modified versions of previously published cases (6,22,23)

From: Acceptability of palliative care approaches for patients with severe and persistent mental illness: a survey of psychiatrists in Switzerland

Case 1: 37-year-old female with anorexia nervosa, onset at age 11
 Symptoms: general muscle weakness; loss of bone density; amenorrhea; current weight 24 kg/52 lbs.; BMI 9.5 kg/m2; no recent weight gain or stabilization; no acute danger of dying, as her body is adapted to being underweight. The patient underwent 10 previous inpatient treatments (in both somatic and psychiatric hospitals), three of which were in specialized psychiatric institutions. Throughout the course of disease, different intensive psychotherapies have been tried, without success. During hospitalizations, the patient underwent several artificial re-feedings, sometimes under sedation. The patient now refuses artificial re-feeding and treatment. She states that, for years, her life has been focused exclusively on trying to overcome her anorexia, leaving her without friends or hobbies. She suffers from the physical symptoms, including general muscle weakness and loss in bone density, saying that she would rather die than undergo further treatment and wishes to be left in peace. She does not want to be forced into eating anymore. Two experts have declared that the patient has decision-making capacity to refuse further treatment, with consequent risk of dying.
Case 2: 33-year-old male with schizophrenia, onset at age 17, no significant comorbidities
 Positive symptoms: auditory and visual hallucinations, persecutory delusions. Negative symptoms: apathy, social withdrawal, poverty of speech (all rated severe). Despite long-lasting, high-dose pharmacological treatment (several atypical neuroleptics, haloperidol, clozapine and combinations of these), as well as electro-convulsive therapy, the patient has never been free from positive or negative symptoms. Multiple psychotherapies of various kinds have also failed to stabilize the patient or to improve his quality of life. He does not wish to continue assertive community treatment because he feels it is too intrusive. While the positive symptoms were more dominant in the first years following initial diagnosis, he went on to develop severe negative symptoms, as well as aggression and self-injurious behavior such as burning himself with cigarettes. The negative symptoms and his strong functional deficits are exacerbated by chronic unemployment and inability to live independently, and the patient has no family system. His persisting illness has left him completely isolated, with no social contacts and no hobbies or interests. Two experts have declared that he possesses decision-making capacity in respect of his illness and its treatment.
Case 3: 40-year-old male with major depressive disorder, no significant comorbidities
 Symptoms: energy loss, insomnia, fatigue, persistent suicidal ideation over 20 years, current acute and concrete suicidal intent. The patient underwent different intensive, evidence-based, long-term psychotherapies, including specialized treatment approaches such as CBASP and IPT. His depression was not improved either by psychotherapy alone or in combination with adequate treatment trials of antidepressants (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, tricyclic antidepressants, venlafaxine, augmentation with lithium and antipsychotic medications (quetiapine and aripiprazole)). The patient experienced significant adverse effects with several of the medications. Exhausted and as a last resort, he has decided to undergo electro-convulsive therapy. However, maintenance electro- convulsive therapy proved equally ineffective in preventing the reappearance of suicidal ideation; indeed, the symptoms worsened. The patient experiences severe hopelessness and states that his quality of life is very poor, that he doesn’t want to deal with his illness anymore, and that he plans to commit suicide in the near future. Two experts have declared that he possesses decision-making capacity regarding his illness and its treatment.