The World Health Organization (WHO) Definition of Palliative Care

Palliative care is an approach that improves the quality of life of patients and their families facing the problem associated with life-threatening illness, through the prevention and relief of suffering by means of early identification and impeccable assessment and treatment of pain and other problems, physical, psychosocial and spiritual. Palliative care:

  • Provides relief from pain and other distressing symptoms.
  • Affirms life and regards dying as a normal process.
  • Intends neither to hasten or postpone death.
  • Integrates the psychological and spiritual aspects of patient care.
  • Offers a support system to help patients live as actively as possible until death.
  • Offers a support system to help the family cope during the patient’s illness and in their own bereavement.
  • Uses a team approach to address the needs of patients and their families, including bereavement counseling, if indicated.
  • Will enhance quality of life, and may also positively influence the course of illness.
  • Is applicable early in the course of illness, in conjunction with other therapies that are intended to prolong life, such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy, and includes those investigations needed to better understand and manage distressing clinical complications.

What To Promise Patients and Their Families

What should doctors, nurses, or other caregivers be able to promise patients and families when cure or restored health are limited or no longer options? Here are seven promises about palliative care that can make a difference:

  • Good Medical Treatment. You will have the best of medical treatment to prevent exacerbation, improve quality of life, and ensure comfort.
  • Never Be Overwhelmed by Symptoms. You will never have to endure overwhelming pain, shortness of breath, or other symptoms.
  • Continuity, Coordination, and Comprehensiveness. Services will make sense and healthcare providers will stay with you.
  • No Surprises. You and your family will be prepared for everything that is likely to happen in the course of your illness.
  • Customized Care. Your wishes will be sought, respected, and followed whenever possible.
  • Consideration for Family and Resources. We will help you and your family to consider your personal and financial situation and respect your choices about how to use your resources.
  • Make the Best of Every Day. We will do all we can to see that you and your family have the opportunity to make the best of every day.