Palliative Care

When people hear the term “palliative care” one of two things may come to mind: hospice or “What type of care?” The standard definition of palliative care is:

Relieving or soothing the symptoms of a disease or disorder without effecting a cure. Palliative care focuses on improving quality of life for the patient and family. It is provided by a team of physicians, nurses and other health professionals working together with a primary care physician or specialist, usually an oncologist. It can be provided at any age and while it is usually for care treatment, it can be provided along with curative treatment. Palliative care can increase the comfort of patients by controlling pain and other symptoms and lessening the stress experienced by chronically ill or terminal patients and their families.


A public opinion poll conducted by the Center to Advance Palliative Care showed only 3% of respondents said they were “knowledgeable” about palliative care.

Palliative care did evolve from the hospice or end-of-life model. Over the years it has provided care for patients no longer seeking active treatment for their illness but not ready for hospice. Palliative care, in a sense, was considered the holding site before hospice. But all that is changing.

Today, it is estimated that two-thirds of approximately 14 million people in this country with a history of cancer are surviving more than five years after diagnosis, but still suffer from chronic pain and other conditions related to curative treatments and the disease itself. Palliative care predominately provides pain management so is a huge resource for patients to control their pain, thereby improving their quality of life. If it is used.

In theory, palliative care supports the principle of patient and family-centered care and supporting the needs of both; promoting communication and shared decision making between patient, caregiver and physician, along with coordination and collaboration by all healthcare providers and teams. In reality, this is not always the case.


In 2017, the Lancet Commission on Global Access to Palliative Care and Pain Relief published a report regarding palliative care and pain relief and developed a framework to measure the global burden of serious health-related suffering (SHS) based on 20 conditions or illnesses. This new approach by the Commission resulted in a broader concept of palliative care.

According to the IAHPC, “One of the challenges in the implementation of palliative care has been the lack of consensus on what palliative care is, when it should be applied, to whom and by whom. …The current WHO (World Health Organization) definition for palliative care for adults was developed in 2002 and poses many challenges, limits palliative care to problems associated with life-threatening illnesses, rather then the need of patients with severe, chronic and complex conditions. The definition for children is even older (1998) and poses similar challenges.”

Following the recommendation of the Lancet Commission, the International Association for Hospice & Palliative Care designed, developed and implemented a project to revise and adopt, based on consensus, a new definition of palliative care.

The definition consists of an introductory statement, a list of components and recommendations to governments.


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