Music therapy can enhance terminally ill patients' wellbeing and relaxation. This treatment has been known since the 1970s, but there is little scientific research on the subject. A recent randomized controlled trial by Marco Warth et al. in Deutsches Ärzteblatt International analyzes the effect of music therapy on palliative care patients.
The trial recruited 84 patients in palliative care: one group received passive music therapy with breathing exercises and vocal improvisation. These were accompanied by a monochord, a specially developed wooden instrument with an atmospheric, overtone-rich sound. The other patients, in the control group, underwent a relaxation program instead of music therapy. Participants were asked about their level of relaxation and their wellbeing before and after their sessions. These values improved more in patients who underwent music therapy than in the control group. As the authors highlight, this trial is therefore the first to provide evidence of the efficacy of receptive music therapy. The relaxation exercises used in the trial can be used by music therapists to treat palliative care patients.
Research: Music Therapy in Palliative Care: A randomized controlled trial to evaluate effects on relaxation, Warth, M; Keßler, J; Hillecke, T K; Bardenheuer, H J, Deutsches Ärzteblatt International, doi: 10.3238/arztebl.2015.0788, published 2015.