An Expert Committee of the World Health Organization in 2002 approved this revised definition of palliative care:

Palliative care is an approach that improves the quality of life of patients and their families facing the problems 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 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 the quality of life, and may also positively influence the course of the 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

Hospice is a philosophy of caring which respects and values the dignity and worth of each person, and good hospice care is the practical expression of that personal and professional commitment. Hospices care for people approaching death, but hospices cherish and emphasize life, by helping patients (and those who love and care for them) live each day to the fullest.

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