Author Affiliation: Department of Medicine, Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, Baltimore, Md.
The concerted efforts to improve end-of-life care that are now burgeoning
in the United States are focused on better provisions of palliative care.
Some dying patients do suffer unnecessarily because physicians lack the skills,
temperament, or motivation to provide good palliative care. This is a serious
failure. An ardent focus on technical aspects of symptom control, however,
could distract broader efforts to improve care of those near death. Symptom
control is often not the most difficult aspect of management. In caring for
a severely, progressively ill patient, what may be most difficult is moving
through the transition from gravely ill and fighting death to terminally ill
and seeking peace, shifting the goals of treatment from cure or longer survival
to preservation of comfort and dignity.
Finucane TE. How Gravely Ill Becomes DyingA Key to End-of-Life Care. JAMA. 1999;282(17):1670-1672. doi:10.1001/jama.282.17.1670