Empowerment of dying patients: the strategies and barriers to patient autonomy The growing debate about the ability of the nurse to empower patients has featured frequently in the nursing journals over recent years. This paper seeks to address the issue around the need to empower dying patients by an examination of nurses’ written reflections on critical incidents in their practice. Geertz's ‘thick description’ has been used to interpret the data. The issues of power and professionalism are central to the discussion. The results are tentative given the sample size but point towards a redefinition of the empathetic approach and the adoption of a ‘facilitative’ approach to the sharing of power. The paper recommends careful examination of the role of the nurse and the communication process to identify further barriers to patient empowerment.