Listen to an amazing episode of The Diane Rehm Show (NPR) that explores the recent study on palliative care in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM). Diane’s guests include Dr. Jennifer Temel of the Harvard Medical School, a lead author of the study, and Dr. Diane Meier, who leads the Center to Advance Palliative Care at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine in New York. Dr. Meier was one of the authors of the NEJM editorial, Palliative Care – A Shifting Paradigm, which accompanied the article about the study. Christina Tate, a nurse practitioner working in palliative care at Georgetown University Hospital, and Dr. Atul Gwande also joined the panel. Dr. Gwande recently published a New Yorker article, Letting Go, about end-of-life issues. Read my post on his article.
One of the most interesting aspects of the program is the discussion about end-of-life care, hospice, and palliative care, focusing on how they differ from one another. Of note is that palliative care is not limited to the terminally ill, and also that a patient can receive palliative care while also receiving treatment.
One of our parents died in a nursing home after going back and forth to the hospital numerous times. We want to avoid this type of ending for ourselves and for our living parents. According to the editorial in the New England Journal of Medicine, “The new approach recognizes that life-threatening illness, whether it can be cured or controlled, carries with it significant burdens of suffering for patients and their families and that this suffering can be effectively addressed by modern palliative care teams.”
Bill and I are so pleased more information on palliative care is becoming available. We did engage palliative care for Dad before he died, but in hindsight realize that he would have been eligible much sooner and could have benefited greatly from it. Because patients do not have to choose between treatment and palliative care, it is the best alternative for anyone who is not in an end of life process or who is not ready to say so as my dad was not. Many elderly parents believe they are protecting their children by not talking about death like my dad who would always say he was going to live to be “at least 100.” Palliative care is a win-win.
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