Palliative Care Helps The Very Ill. It May Also Keep Costs Down
Tuesday, July 3, 2007; Page HE01
David Thibault grows orchids as a hobby, but the elegant flower on his bedside tray did little to lift his spirits. He stared out the window of his room at George Washington University Hospital, waiting for lab results that could tell him if he had months, weeks or maybe only days to live...
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[Editor's note, added July 17, 2007 at 6:37pm] -- Diane Meier, Director of the Center to Advance Palliative Care at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, explains on Medscape why she thinks that given the evolving demographics of our aging population, hospital palliative care programs are a necessity for every hospital, not just an option:
Advances in modern medicine have resulted in unprecedented gains in human longevity. But the fact is that eventually most adults will develop chronic illnesses with which they may live for years. Research indicates that for most people, advanced disease is characterized by big trouble: inadequately treated symptoms[1-7]; fragmented care systems; poor communication among physicians, patients, and families[8,9]; and enormous strains on family caregivers.[10-13]
An artificial dichotomy still exists in the very fabric of our healthcare system -- cure vs comfort. This dichotomy ignores the fact that the overwhelming majority of people living with advanced illness require both life-prolonging and palliative treatments. Forcing a choice between cure and comfort until the end-of-life predictably results in preventable suffering during all other stages of a serious illness.[14,15]