Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Palliative care in Newsweek

Newsweek recently published a report on 'fixing U.S. hospitals.' It covers many areas including electronic medical records, treatment guidelines, hospital acquired infections, etc., but also includes a section on hospital based palliative care (it focuses on the Mt. Sinai program in New York).

1) It's encouraging to see this as part of a prescription to 'fix' U.S. hospitals.
2) It's actually a decent--especially for a mainstream press article--introduction for non-medical people to what palliative care is--what we do, how palliative care is different from hospice, etc. There are no grossly misleading statements. It does, however, play up this image of massages for caregivers of people with advanced illnesses--and how that is emblematic of palliative care. While I'll agree that it's emblematic--caregiver support & care is integral to palliative care--I cringed a little at the attention given to this idea. It does imply that what we do is a balm, a band-aid, some sort of nice, let's all get together and smile type of approach and not what I personally view it as: the comprehensive, patient + caregiver focused, medical care of those with advanced and terminal illnesses. No more, no less, and to 'other-ize' palliative care (i refuse to respond to any comments complaining about that neologism)--to make it out to be something super-special, something more than, or distinct from (what should be) routine, excellent, state of the art medical care--is to do our field & specialty a disservice. There should be nothing, in particular, special about what we do.

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