The Palliative Care Tent: How to Invite People In?

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The Los Angeles Times published an October 24, 2011 article,  The Promise and Pitfalls of Palliative Care, by Melissa Healy.

In her article Healy describes how palliative care helps people who are very ill and need to manage everything from their pain to living their lives with quality. These programs also support families. The author also points out that often patients are confused and compare hospice and palliative care, thinking of the two programs as similar rather than as two extremely different types of medical services and support.

Palliative care and hospice care differ in two big ways.

        1. Patients can receive palliative care from the moment they receive a diagnosis.
        2. Patients can receive palliative care and pursue treatment options at the same time.

Several Interesting Quotes

      • If palliative care were a pill, government regulators would very likely approve it for the U.S. Market. Federal healthcare insurance programs would quickly agree to pay physicians and hospitals for treating patients with the new therapy. And patients would make it a blockbuster drug in no time flat.
      • This new branch of medicine is about adding life to patients’ years rather than years to their lives.

The LA Times article quotes a Massachusetts General Hospital physician, Dr. Jennifer S. Temel, the lead researcher for an August 2010 article, Early Palliative Care for Patients with Metastatic Non–Small-Cell Lung Cancer, that is freely available from The New England Journal of Medicine (NJM). The authors write, “Despite receiving less aggressive end-of-life care, patients in the palliative care group had significantly longer survival than those in the standard care group (median survival, 11.6 vs. 8.9 months).”  Note: Check out the graph that illustrates these findings at NJM.

In August 2010 a blog post here on AsOurParentsAge described an episode of The  Diane Rehm Show, a nationally broadcast program that originates in Washington, DC. The episode featured experts in palliative care and Dr. Temel was a guest on this program.

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