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Palliative Care is a specialty that helps patients and their families live as well and as fully as possible when facing a life-threatening illness.
Our clinicians employ all available treatments to alleviate patients’ suffering and improve quality of life at any stage of a serious illness, including during curative treatments (such as chemotherapy). In this way, palliative care is unlike hospice, which focuses on home care and ceases life-prolonging interventions for patients expected to live six or fewer months.
Established in 1996, the Division of Palliative Care, part of the Department of Medicine, comprises:
We work closely with the patient's primary care physician and hospital specialists, nurses, chaplains, psychiatrists and pharmacists to help meet the physical, emotional, social and spiritual needs of patients and their families. We work with more than 2,000 inpatients and outpatients and their families every year.
Treatments are unique to each patient and incorporate the patient's goals, hopes, spiritual beliefs, moral values and cultural practices. We also encourage families to become part of the treatment process.
Treatment may involve medications and other therapies for pain, emotional distress and other troubling symptoms (e.g. nausea, shortness of breath, fatigue, loss of appetite). Examples include:
We may also refer patients to Mass General's Center for Pain Medicine or Cancer Center.
The Division of Palliative Care is committed to strengthening institutional support for students and fellow clinicians and establishing standards of clinical excellence in the field. We promote operational changes to improve palliative-care practice throughout Mass General and beyond. For instance, as a result of our merger with the hospital's Medical Intensive Care Unit, palliative-care measures are now available to those patients.
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