Intended for healthcare professionals

Making A Difference Palliative Care Beyond Cancer

Care for all at the end of life

BMJ 2008; 336 doi: (Published 24 April 2008) Cite this as: BMJ 2008;336:958
  1. Scott A Murray, St Columba’s professor of primary palliative care,
  2. Aziz Sheikh, professor of primary care research and development
  1. 1Primary Palliative Care Research Group, Division of Community Health Sciences: General Practice Section, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh EH8 9DX
  1. Correspondence to: S Murray Scott.Murray{at}

Scott Murray and Aziz Sheikh say that the lessons learnt from palliative care for cancer need to be applied to other fatal conditions. Healthcare delivery that is tailored to the varying needs of patients with these diseases will be crucial in making a difference, says Joanne Lynn (doi: 10.1136/bmj.39535.656319.94)

We must apply the lessons learnt from cancer (often slowly and painfully) to the growing number of people now dying from non-malignant illnesses. New theoretical insights into the trajectories of decline in a range of long term conditions—together with technical developments that aid the delivery of care in people’s own homes and the timeless clinical qualities of listening, compassion, empathy, and inspiring hope—mean that we now have the means to make a real difference to the lives of so many people in the throes of their final illness and to the lives of their loved ones. Getting end of life care “right” lies at the heart of what it means to be a civilised society, and thus prioritising this area needs no apologies.

In 2005 cancer was responsible for a relatively small percentage of deaths worldwide (13%), while other long …

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