Getting the language of palliative care straight

Lyle Fettig has an interesting post on what adjective is best used to describe the patient needing palliative care: Serious v. Chronic v. Life-limiting v. Advanced v. Terminal? He then discusses a post by a patient with Rheumatoid Arthritis seeking a palliative care consult and concludes that patients with a serious illnesses are those that can plausibly benefit from palliative care, with the key being making it clear to patients that palliative care is not only relevant in the last days of life.

Christian Sinclair agrees that serious is the best word to describe those illnesses that are relevantly addressed by palliative care, and reports on the results of a survey of the public’s knowledge of palliative care. Bottom line:

People do not know what palliative care is.  78 % of people said they were ‘not at all knowledgeable or don’t know’ when asked about palliative care. Frustrating I am sure to those of you who beat the drum everyday but at least it is not being wholly defined and understood without us (yet).

This lack of knowledge combined with our culture’s inability to discuss and face limits in what medicine can do is what provides the space for the politics of rationing and death panels to be so potent.


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