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January 23, 2006

Relief of Suffering Is the Business of Every Discipline

Arch Intern Med. 2006;166(2):149-150. doi:10.1001/archinte.166.2.149

The Hippocratic Oath and all other known declarations of medical professional commitment bind and adjure us to care for the sick. They do not stop at requiring attempts to cure; they require care for the suffering that results from sickness. No exceptions. So it is startling that, in an era when we are capable of alleviating so much suffering, much suffering still goes unattended.1-3 Palliative care has never been equipped with such an array of possible pharmacological, technical, and service resources as well as teachable human skills.4-8 It is unfortunate that most practicing physicians today were trained in a medical culture that often assumed it was not the responsibility of the curatively motivated physician to provide comfort or alleviate suffering.9 All of us could have done something to alleviate those problems, and all of us still can. No exceptions.

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