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April 2, 2020

Better Understanding the Importance of Palliative Care for Pediatric Patients

Author Affiliations
  • 1Pediatric Hematology/Oncology, University of Alabama at Birmingham
  • 2Institute for Cancer Outcomes and Survivorship, University of Alabama at Birmingham
  • 3Division of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology, Department of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle
  • 4Division of Bioethics/Palliative Care, Department of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle
  • 5Palliative Care and Resilience Lab, Center for Clinical and Translational Research, Seattle Children’s Research Institute, Seattle, Washington
JAMA Oncol. 2020;6(6):817-818. doi:10.1001/jamaoncol.2020.0083

Pediatric and adult palliative care programs have seen tremendous growth in the last 2 decades. We are beginning to understand critical aspects of adult palliative care delivery, namely that it matters how, when, and why palliative care is delivered. In their landmark article, Temel et al1 showed increased survival for patients receiving palliative care for non–small cell lung cancer. In 2019, Sullivan and colleagues2 demonstrated that palliative care services were associated with prolonged survival when the first date of services was 31 to 365 days after a patient’s diagnosis. The ensuing discussion and editorials critically explored how patients, families, and clinicians value quantity vs quality of life.3 A key question of interest: is quantity of life necessarily the goal? In other words, when clinicians and families are navigating incurable cancer, is not quality of time equally, if not more, important?

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