Intended for healthcare professionals


Palliative care from diagnosis to death

BMJ 2017; 356 doi: (Published 27 February 2017) Cite this as: BMJ 2017;356:j878

Hospital versus Hospice

Traditional medicine distinguishes between sickness that is curable and
sickness that is incurable. A curable sickness is treated in a hospital with
curative care; while an incurable sickness is treated in a hospice with palliative
care. For example, a curable sickness, such as pneumonia, is treated in a
hospital with antibiotics, fluids, and bed rest; while an incurable sickness, such
as metastatic cancer, is treated in a hospice with pain medicine and
tranquilizers, but no anti-cancer drugs. Curative care is designed to fight
sickness, while palliative care is designed to make patients more comfortable.
This distinction between curative care and palliative care is somewhat
misleading, because both rely on pharmaceuticals, and both ignore the
relationship between diet and health. Regardless of whether a sickness is
curable or incurable, physicians must promote health and not simply treat
symptoms with pharmaceuticals.

Competing interests: No competing interests

02 March 2017
Hugh Mann
New York, NY, USA