“Palliative care” expansion – not just for the terminally ill

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“Palliative care” expansion – not just for the terminally ill

The term “palliative care” needs to be regarded with caution, because it is no longer only intended for the terminally ill.  In an article in the American Journal of Nursing entitled “Stopping Eating and Drinking,” the author discusses stopping eating and drinking as a method for “patients who want to hasten their dying.”

The first example given in the article was about a patient who was not terminally ill, but was quite elderly and had much physical deterioration.

The patient consulted the author at the “nonprofit end-of-life advocacy and consultative organization” where the author worked.  The patient decided to stop eating and drinking, dying in 10 days as a result.

The author goes on to discuss the physical process itself and the legal issues associated with it.  She says, “There’s growing support for the idea that clinicians who believe it’s morally unacceptable to talk to a patient about voluntarily stopping eating and drinking should transfer care to another clinician who will provide information on all legal options.”

She says, “Palliative care provides symptom relief and the best possible quality of life not just for dying patients but also for those with a life-threatening or incurable and progressive disease.”  In this context, palliative care also clearly includes measures that hasten dying.

It might be useful for someone whose relatives are considering palliative care to inquire into the practices allowed and followed by the providers of the palliative care.


Stopping Eating and Drinking  by Judith K. Schwarz PhD, RN

AJN, American Journal of Nursing
September 2009
Volume 109 Number 9
Pages 52 – 61

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