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September 3, 2008

Studying the Effectiveness of Palliative Care

Author Affiliations

Letters Section Editor: Robert M. Golub, MD, Senior Editor.

JAMA. 2008;300(9):1022-1024. doi:10.1001/jama.300.9.1022-a

To the Editor: In their systematic review of specialized palliative care, Dr Zimmerman and colleagues1 defined this as “a service of professionals that provides or coordinates comprehensive care for patients with a terminal illness.” Systematic reviews are better at answering very specific questions than very general questions of an exploratory nature. The authors' unfocused definition allowed them to include studies of interventions such as a monthly telephone or oncology nurse outpatient follow-up visit, a coping intervention for caregivers, or a multidisciplinary palliative care team. I believe that because no palliative care expertise was required, their use of the term specialized palliative care is misleading.