Negative Misperception Prevents Patients from Benefitting from Palliative Care, Research Shows

By R. Bruce Dalglish of Pennsylvania

New research published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal indicates that many patients associate the term “palliative care” with imminent death, which prevents them from even considering this type of care.

Lead study author and head of the division of palliative care at the University Health Network in Toronto Dr. Camilla Zimmermann commented: “Patients and caregivers in our study saw palliative care as being equated with death, loss of hope, dependency, and going into places you never get out of again.”

Indeed, in my own experience as CEO of Alliance Hospice and All Caring Hospice centers, I often meet people who are reluctant to take advantage of the supportive therapies that can dramatically improve their quality of live just because of the negative stigma associated with the term “palliative care.”

The fact is, however, that palliative care has nothing to do with death. On the contrary, the numerous benefits offered by palliative care through pain and other symptom management have been proven to improve the patients’ quality of live, thus increasing chances for recovery. Unlike hospice care, palliative care is recommended throughout the course of an illness, and not only at the end of life.

The recent study highlights an important problem of the common misconception that exists in the media, our healthcare system and people’s minds. To fix it, we should reconsider the way we talk about palliative care with patients. Rather than offering it as a last resort, doctors should rightly position palliative care as a way to continue combatting an illness, while also being able to maintain the highest possible quality of life.

About the Author


A resident of Philadelphia, Bruce Dalglish has served as the Chairman and CEO of Alliance Hospice and All Caring Hospice since 2005. In this role, Bruce Dalglish oversees the development and strategic direction of both companies. From 2008 – 2013, Bruce Dalglish served on the Public Policy Committee of the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO).
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Disclaimer: Blogs by R. Bruce Dalglish provide educational information, not medical advice. Please consult with your medical providers when making end-of-life care decisions.