Palliative care is a critical part of health care

Much has been written about end-of-life issues, especially pertaining to recent efforts to write new law that would permit Connecticut physicians to prescribe lethal medication. This conversation often frames the issue as black and white, suffering or relief, and typically overshadows an important component of the conversation. We must not neglect the broader issue of caring for patients living with debilitating and terminal diseases, their families and available treatment options.

Palliative care, which is specialized medical care designed to “enhance a person’s current care by focusing on quality life for them and their family,” according to the National Institutes of Health, is a crucial piece of this puzzle, though its services are often misunderstood and poorly utilized. As a group of current medical students and future physicians, we recognize that physician-assisted dying is a polarizing and hotly debated topic, but strongly believe that it should not overshadow providing the most compassionate, patient-centered care possible.

One of palliative care’s core philosophies is to lessen suffering; however, there are still many misconceptions, which can best be addressed by Dr. Angelo Volandes, Harvard-trained physician and revolutionary in end-of-life planning: “To be clear, we’re not trying to nudge people one way or the other,” he explained. “We’re not trying to get the ‘do not resuscitate,’ and we’re not trying to supplant the doctor-patient relationship. We’re just trying to supplement it so that patients and families do not suffer.”

Palliative care is not giving up, it is an opportunity to give patients the comfort and compassion they need and deserve while providing families with the resources, follow-up and closure required when faced with a debilitating or terminal diagnosis. It is about the whole person, offering pain management and spiritual services, with support that extends into the affected person’s home even after they are gone. After feeling the powerlessness that comes with a life-changing diagnosis, some control is restored. Further, palliative care is a conversation that begins in health — one that aligns a patient’s values and wishes with their health care team’s treatment goals. It is a resource that aims to maximize comfort at all stages of one’s care.

Research has shown that palliative care reduces pain and spiritual distress while enhancing the quality of life in seriously ill patients. Despite its utility, worldwide only about 14 percent of people who need this specialized care, currently receive it. In the U.S., there are 6 million people who could benefit from palliative care. We implore our lawmakers to increase the availability and utilization of palliative care services and to effectively integrate palliative care into our health care system to identify those who could benefit from such services the most. We need to improve patient, family and physician knowledge about the utility of palliative care programs, as it will encourage shared decision-making and ensure that the values of patients of all ages are upheld during their care.

Palliative care should be an important consideration for all patients. Conversations should begin as early as possible and should continue regularly as patients receive care. As patients and family members, we must communicate our goals and values to our health care teams. Medicine is a team sport involving physicians, patients, families and care partners to ensure that high-quality care aligns with patient wishes, in living and in dying.

Victoria Kozar, Krishna Channa, and Brent Heineman are second-year medical students and Connecticut residents.

More Info

By Betty C. Giordano

Welcome to my site. My name is Betty C. Giordano and I am a blogger of everything related to mobile, news, events and reality in general. I hope you enjoy reading my content.

Leave a Reply