Promise and pitfalls of palliative care

Interesting piece in the LA Times on the promise and pitfalls of palliative care.

  • In the promise category, increasing evidence of palliative care effectively dealing with the symptoms of patients and helping them to navigate  the system.
  • In the negative category is uncertainty about how such care will be financed, and workforce needs.
  • In the insanity category is the degree to which our culture cannot have a reasonable discussion about anything related to death and asking hard questions such as “is this treatment worth it?” Palliative care tends to ask this question so will take lots of political heat.

There is a great need to communicate the reality of what palliative care is: care that addresses symptoms and helps patients focus on goals of care regardless of prognosis. Palliative care is not synonymous with hospice, though the two are related often confused (all hospice is palliative care, but all palliative care is not hospice). And in such confusion, there is a great deal of political mischief that is enabled (death panels, etc).  However, the onus is on palliative care advocates to make the case. As Eric Widera blogged over the weekend, if Siri doesn’t know the difference between hospice and palliative care, then we have lots of work to do.

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