HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Concordia University School of Law

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Palliative Care

This week's Journal of the American Medical Association contains a brief article discussing the adoption of palliative care by hospitals.   The article provides a concise definition and overview of the history of palliative care.  It states in part,

Despite advances in medicine and medical technology, there is a growing population of aging patients with complex health problems who are poorly served by even the best intensive care units. To help these patients, who often have multiple chronic conditions or various complications of acute conditions, hospitals are turning to palliative care, which focuses on symptom management, communication, and other means to improve quality of life for patients and their families. 

Palliative care may be delivered in concert with curative or life-prolonging medical care and is not prognosis dependent. These features distinguish it from hospice care, which offers symptom management for patients who are facing a terminal illness and no longer wish to undergo life-prolonging treatments, as well as other kinds of support for these patients and their families.

Between 2000 and 2005, the number of hospitals with palliative care programs grew by 96% from 632 to 1240, according to the Center to Advance Palliative Care, which analyzed data from the 2007 American Hospital Association Annual Survey of Hospitals.

The field of palliative and hospice care became formally recognized as a subspecialty by the American Board of Medical Specialties in 2006. A record 10 specialty groups—anesthesiology, emergency medicine, family medicine, obstetrics and gynecology, internal medicine, pediatrics, physical medicine and rehabilitation, psychiatry and neurology, radiology, and surgery—endorse hospice and palliative medicine as a subspecialty of their fields.

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