BY: LAURENCE J. O'CONNELL, Ph.D., STD
Dr. O'Connell is president and CEO, Park Ridge Center for Health,
Faith, and Ethics, and chief ethics officer, Advocate Health Care; both organizations
are based in Chicago.
As this issue of Health Progress went to press, the National Consensus
Project, a consortium of five palliative care organizations, published Clinical
Practice Guidelines for Quality Palliative Care.* This special section on
palliative care is reaching the Catholic health care ministry at a time when
palliative care has come into its own. Increasingly, hospitals and health care
systems are integrating palliative care practices and programs into their strategies
for achieving clinical excellence. We finally have a reasonably well-defined
understanding of palliative care and what it implies:
The goal of palliative care is to relieve suffering and to support the best
possible quality of life for patients with advanced chronic and life-threatening
illnesses and their families. It focuses on treating pain, symptoms and stress,
providing support for daily living, helping patients and families make difficult
medical decisions and ensuring that patient and family wishes for care are
followed (National Consensus Project for Quality Palliative Care, Clinical
Practice Guidelines for Quality Palliative Care, Brooklyn, NY, 2004).
This special section addresses central features of palliative care, moving
from the more theoretical, systemic considerations to the most intimate, personal
dimensions of giving and receiving care in the face of chronic and life-threatening
illnesses. This set of articles is designed to serve as a wide-open window on
the world of emerging patterns in palliative care. Our expert panel of researchers
and clinicians has laid out some important advances and shared the growing promise
of an area of health care that typlifies the essence of our faith-based ministry:
making visible the invisible love of God.
Palliative care creates an environment wherein each person can touch the heart
of those who are in pain, alleviating physical, emotional, and spiritual suffering
while opening paths of peaceful resolution and hope. Palliative care is a ministry
whose time has come.
* The participating organizations are the American Academy
of Hospice and Palliative Medicine, Glenview, IL; the Center to Advance Palliative
Care, New York City; the Hospice and Palliative Nurses Association, Pittsburgh;
Last Acts Partnership, Brooklyn, NY; and the National Hospice and Palliative
Care Organization, Alexandria, VA.
Copyright © 2004 by the Catholic Health Association of the United States
For reprint permission, contact Betty Crosby or call (314) 253-3477.