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Misconceptions About Palliative Care

Harvard Health published a helpful article describing the purpose and benefit of palliative care.

There are often misconceptions about what palliative care is and why it can be beneficial. From the beginning of the Palliative/Hospice Care movement, the purpose has always been a holistic approach to address physical, mental, emotional, and existential suffering for both the patient and their family, and to neither hasten nor prolong death. Assisted suicide is not in keeping with this mission, but for so many at the diagnosis of a life-threatening disability and throughout the course of an illness, with inadequate palliative care, a person can feel like they’ve lost their dignity, the ability to do things they used to enjoy, the control of bodily functions, and can have feelings of being a burden of their family and caregivers. 

These existential, disability-related concerns, not physical pain, are the same top reasons why people ask for lethal drugs in assisted suicide legal states. These are the exact issues palliative care is designed to address.

The authors of this article state: “We find that not enough people who could benefit from this care receive it. By addressing misconceptions about what palliative care is and who it can help, we hope more people will ask for the full range of care they deserve, and inquire about whether a referral to palliative care is right for them.”

Patients ought to know their options and be able to receive palliative care, hospice, and other medical services. “People can and should receive palliative care while also receiving curative or life-prolonging treatments.”

Physicians should be ready and willing to provide whatever care possible to prolong the life of their patient.

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