Bringing palliative care to the emergency room

I recommend We Can’t Save You from Slate. The post addresses a topic I haven’t thought much about but that makes a lot of sense: the intersection of emergency medicine and palliative care. Here’s the problem:

[Some patients] get treated, aggressively and repeatedly, for dangerous flare-ups in conditions like heart failure or emphysema without anyone having the time or the skills to explain that the chronic disease they have been living with is now the chronic disease that they are slowly dying from…

Emergency rooms are intense, fast-moving environments where the culture is often more about taking charge and saving people than slowing down and taking the long-term view. So it’s encouraging to read that at least some ER docs are trying to incorporate palliative approaches when appropriate. Such care can include controlling pain, managing symptoms (like shortness of breath) and coordinating supportive resources for the patient and family.

The results are going to be better for the patient and less costly for the system, too. No doubt some ideologues will see the introduction of palliative care into the ER as the implementation of “death panels.” They’re welcome to such views, however delusional.

August 6, 2010

5 thoughts on “Bringing palliative care to the emergency room”

  1. Honest is always a good policy and your parting shot missing on that score. The death panels idea refers to bureaucrats making decisions, not to medical personnel in direct patient contact.

    It is really too bad that such an important topic gets tainted by such a derogatory illustration of political blindness – even down to creating a straw man to call delusional.

  2. Thanks for your comment, Bryan, but actually it you who’s off base.

    The “death panel” myth came out of a provision in health care reform to allow “optional, voluntary consultations with physicians for advice on life-sustaining treatment and end-of-life services, including hospice care.”

    Sarah Palin and her ilk used that as the basis for scaring people with the “death panel” nonsense.

    Read more here: http://tinyurl.com/33rdwgc

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