Palliative care is a form of medical treatment concentrating on reducing the severity of symptoms rather than on striving to halt the progression of disease. It is introduced when a patient's disease no longer responds to approved treatments; clinical trials are no longer an option and/or the patient is simply too sick to continue aggressive therapy. It is a shift in focus from the curative to quality of life.
The first goal of palliative care is to relieve the patient's physical pain and suffering. Secondly, palliative care addresses the psychological and spiritual needs of both the patient and her family. Palliative care involves a team of professionals creating a complete mind-body-spirit support system for end-of-life issues.
The most important factor at this stage of your journey is the relationship between you and your doctor. Honesty and trust are paramount in a decision of this magnitude. Patients may have undergone multiple rounds of chemotherapy and their disease may have become resistant to known treatments. Patients may be experiencing severe toxicity issues from previous chemotherapy and be too sick to continue.
A patient may decide that they've had enough and are unwilling to undergo the challenges of further treatment.
Some patients may never give up - they maintain an element of disease denial and continue to pursue every available avenue.
According to a bioethics study on quality end-of-life care, most patients' wishes include:
Designating someone to act as your advocate is a very important consideration. That someone may need to be a friend, rather than a family member, who can be trusted to ensure that your wishes are truly respected.
Coming to terms with your mortality raises fundamental questions including:
Dying is still living. Hopefully, throughout your journey, you will have developed the skills necessary to live and die well.
We strongly encourage you to talk with your health care professional about your specific medical condition and treatments. The information contained in this website is meant to be helpful and educational, but is not a substitute for medical advice.