Palliative Care

Palliative Care

Palliative care helps patients with serious illness live as well as possible during their illness and provides compassionate care to relieve the range of physical and emotional symptoms that often accompany serious illness or the side effects of treatment. Although palliative medicine is a newly-named specialty in medicine, the idea behind it is far from new. Palliative care focuses on attending to the needs of the whole person — physically, psychologically, emotionally, socially, and spiritually.

Consistent with Catholic Moral Tradition

With its emphasis on compassionate care and treatment palliative care is fully consistent with the Catholic moral tradition. Popes from John Paul II to Francis have called out the importance of palliative care in addressing the suffering of the seriously ill.


"Particularly in the stages of illness when proportionate and effective treatment is no longer possible, while it is necessary to avoid every kind of persistent or aggressive treatment, methods of "palliative care" are required. As the encyclical Evangelium Vitae affirms, they must "seek to make suffering more bearable in the final stages of illness and to ensure that the patient is supported and accompanied in his or her ordeal" (n. 65).


In fact, palliative care aims, especially in the case of patients with terminal diseases, at alleviating a vast gamut of symptoms of physical, psychological and mental suffering; hence, it requires the intervention of a team of specialists with medical, psychological and religious qualifications who will work together to support the patient in critical stages."
Address of John Paul II to the Participants in the 19th International Conference of the Pontifical Council for Health Pastoral Care, November 12,  2004


"There is a need to promote policies which create conditions where human beings can bear even incurable illnesses and death in a dignified manner. Here it is necessary to stress once again the need for more palliative care centers which provide integral care, offering the sick the human assistance and spiritual accompaniment they need. This is a right belonging to every human being, one which we must all be committed to defend.
Message of His Holiness Benedict XVI for the 15th World Day of the Sick, February 11, 2007

Whoever has a sense of human dignity knows instead that they must be respected and supported while they face the difficulties and sufferings linked with their health conditions. Toward this end, today one takes recourse more and more to the use of palliative care, which is able to soothe pain that comes from the illness and to help infirm persons to get through it with dignity. Nevertheless, together with the indispensable palliative care clinics, it is necessary to offer concrete gestures of love, of nearness and Christian solidarity to the sick…."
Address of His Holiness Benedict XVI on the Occasion of His Visit to the Hospice Foundation of Rome, Dec. 13, 2009


"And even if we know that we cannot always guarantee healing or a cure, we can and must always care for the living, without ourselves shortening their life, but also without futilely resisting their death. This approach is reflected in palliative care, which is proving most important in our culture, as it opposes what makes death most terrifying and unwelcome — pain and loneliness."
Message of the Holy Father to the President of the Pontifical Academy for Life on the occasion of the European Regional Meeting of the "World Medical Association" on "end of life" issues, November 7, 2017


"Palliative care is an expression of the truly human attitude of taking care of one another, especially of those who suffer. It is a testimony that the human person is always precious, even if marked by illness and old age."
Address of His Holiness Pope Francis to Participants in the Plenary of the Pontifical Academy for Life,March 5, 2015


Partner Organizations

CHA works with the following organizations to promote high quality palliative care for all who need it.

Supportive Care Coalition (SCC) is a coalition of Catholic health ministries working to create a health care system where all those with seriously illness have access to high quality palliative care. The work of the SCC is focused on ethics, advocacy, spirituality, and education.

Patient Quality of Life Coalition represents over 40 organizations dedicated to improving quality of care and quality of life for these patients – from pediatrics to geriatrics – and to advancing public policies that improve and expand access to palliative care and appropriate pain management for these individuals.

Circle of Life Award honors innovative palliative and end-of-life care in hospices, hospitals, health care systems, long-term care facilities, and other direct care providers.

Whole Person Care Initiative is a national partnership to develop quality palliative care programs that support and accompany the chronically and terminally ill in both clinical and parish settings.


Other Resources
Archdiocese of Boston Initiative for Palliative Care provides education, outreach and advocacy to create an informed public about palliative care, including support and education about Advance Care Planning, which allows people to discuss and make known their wishes for care in anticipation of a time when they cannot speak for themselves.

Center to Advance Palliative Care provides tools, training, technical assistance, and metrics needed to build and sustain palliative care in all health care settings.

National Association of Catholic Chaplains along with Board Chaplaincy Certification, Inc. offers an advanced certification in palliative care and hospice.

Pontifical Academy for Life, PALLIFE Project is an international study group with the purpose of supporting the academy in its initiatives to promote palliative care throughout the world.