Palliative Care at Massachusetts General Hospital provides specialized, multidisciplinary medical care for people with serious illnesses. It is focused on improving quality of life for both the patient and the family—providing relief from the symptoms, pain and stresses of a serious illness—whatever the diagnosis.

Ensuring Quality of Life

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.

Personalized, Family-Centered Support

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:
  • Patient-controlled medicine pumps
  • Relaxation techniques (e.g. meditation, guided imagery)
  • Short-term cognitive-behavioral therapy (e.g. pain-coping skills)
  • Individual and family counseling, including special services for younger children
  • Weekly clinics centering on specific conditions (e.g. cancer pain)
We may also refer patients to Mass General's Center for Pain Medicine or Cancer Center.