Editorials

Palliative care in chronic illness

BMJ 2005; 330 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.330.7492.611 (Published 17 March 2005) Cite this as: BMJ 2005;330:611
  1. Scott A Murray (Scott.Murray@ed.ac.uk), clinical reader,
  2. Kirsty Boyd, honorary senior lecturer,
  3. Aziz Sheikh, professor of primary care research and development
  1. Primary Palliative Care Research Group, Division of Community Health Sciences: General Practice Section, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh EH8 9DX
  2. Primary Palliative Care Research Group, Division of Community Health Sciences: General Practice Section, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh EH8 9DX

    We need to move from prognostic paralysis to active total care

    Health, social, and palliative care services are continuing to fail many people with progressive chronic illnesses in whom death may be approaching, reflecting a failure to think proactively and holistically about their care.1 Such people could, however, readily be identified by clinicians asking themselves, “Would I be surprised if my patient were to die in the next 12 months?” For patients in whom the answer is no, delivery of patient centred active treatment and supportive care are needed.

    Prognostic paralysis has been described, whereby clinicians of patients with uncertain illness trajectories prevaricate when considering end of life issues.2 For example, one general practitioner graphically summarised the feelings many experience in caring for people with terminal heart failure: “You're paddling down-stream to Niagara.” Another felt reduced to clinical tasks: “I feel impotent, merely a blood leech and …

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