What is the Mission of Palliative Care?

A while back I was talking to the family of a patient I was caring for in the intensive care unit. During the conversation, one of the family members asked me a question that broke my heart.

They asked, “Doc, do you ever feel a conflict between your mission as a palliative care doctor and the mission of the intensive care unit?”

The question broke my heart because of its implication that palliative care teams have some sort of a bias against life extending treatments. And this just isn’t true at all!

Let’s clear something up:

The mission of palliative care is to support you and advocate for the best plan for YOU!

If your goal is to focus on comfort while your illness runs its natural course?

Your palliative team will advocate for you.

If your goal is to extend your life to the greatest extent possible?

Your palliative team will ALSO advocate for you!

I have worked with plenty of patients for whom I recommended interventions aimed at extended their life like feeding tubes and long term ventilators. It all depends on the medical situation and the tradeoffs each person is willing to make for the chance at having more time on this Earth.

But regardless of your goals, if you are living with stress and suffering related to your serious illness please connect with a palliative care team. Don’t let misconceptions about palliative care prevent you from getting the support you deserve right now!

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