Changing attitudes, improving lives

Palliative care has an image problem: patients and families have negative views about receiving it, and those who need it commonly enter care reluctantly or too late. Boyd and colleagues (doi:10.1136/bmj.l881) discuss whether these unfavourable ideas might improve if palliative care were rebranded, perhaps as “enhanced” or “best supportive care.” The term “end of life care” is not optimal, because palliative interventions are helpful, and should be introduced, well before the end of life. Ultimately the authors conclude that attitudes, not names, should change. But they acknowledge that positive language matters. Rather than describing palliative care as an end of life intervention, doctors and families should instead consider it “an opportunity for specialist advice on managing pain and other symptoms, for help with complex decision making, and in preparing for the future.”

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