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Palliative care important

December 8, 2013
The Leader Herald

Palliative care is a medical specialty that provides coordinated, comprehensive care to reduce pain and suffering, while trying to heal or cure anyone who is given a life-threatening or life-altering diagnosis. Sadly, without any factual or medical knowledge of palliative care, Sarah Palin called this essential medical care "death panels." It's just the opposite. Because of Mrs. Palin and some others, palliative care was removed as a covered benefit from the Affordable Care Act.

Palliative care differs from hospice in that you are not required to have a six-month or less prognosis, and curative/restorative treatment is allowed and provided. Palliative care works to save lives if possible, reduce pain and suffering and provide dignity and respect. This care is accredited by the Joint Commission whose accreditation and certification is recognized nationwide as a symbol of quality and a commitment to meeting certain performance standards. It also is endorsed by healthcare organizations such as CAPC (The Center to Advance Palliative Care) at Mt Sinai, the American Cancer Society and Healthcare Chaplaincy. If Mrs. Palin had done the necessary research, she would have known this.

My hope is to help educate people and try to undo some of the harm Mrs. Palin and some others have done. If people learn about palliative care, they can ask for it if/when it is needed. I also hope they will contact their elected officials to ensure palliative care is part of the Affordable Care Act or any bill that provides health care. Although we may not understand another's suffering, we can and must provide treatment to reduce it.

Palliative care should be a usual and accepted part of a coordinated comprehensive medical plan that sees to the best interest of the patient and the patient's family. It is crucial and must be included in any bill that calls itself health care reform. (It is a covered benefit in the single payer bill, HR 676, The Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act). Although many institutions now provide palliative care (it's at the core of such medical centers as the Mayo Clinic, Johns Hopkins, the Cleveland Clinic and Mt. Sinai, to name a few), it is still a relatively new specialty; in some areas, it might be necessary to ask for it.

Hopefully, someday palliative care will be routinely practiced and supported by all health care professionals and institutions. Critically, chronically ill patients just cannot wait.


St. Johnsville



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