What is Palliative Care?: In Facing Death, this Doctor Sees a Way to Live Well


Video from PBS Newshour


Dr. BJ Miller does not work to heal patients, but to ensure quality of life amid advanced or serious illness. Sometimes people suggest his job is depressing, but Miller doesn’t see it that way. When people are dying it changes how they live, he says. Miller gives his Brief but Spectacular take on dying and living.


You have heard it said to die well you must live well. Dr. Miller concurs that understanding how to die well helps you to live better. He experienced an accident while in college that nearly cost him his life and in doing so was introduced to suffering. Life he found out does not do what you want it to. This is another way of saying that we are not in control though we think we are. God remains in control from cradle to grave and beyond.


What is Palliative Care?

"Palliative care is care given to improve the quality of life of patients who have a serious or life-threatening disease, such as cancer. Palliative care is an approach to care that addresses the person as a whole, not just their disease. The goal is to prevent or treat, as early as possible, the symptoms and side effects of the disease and its treatment, in addition to any related psychological, social, and spiritual problems. Palliative care is also called comfort care, supportive care, and symptom management. Patients may receive palliative care in the hospital, an outpatient clinic, a long-term care facility, or at home under the direction of a physician." from the National Cancer Institute


Palliative Care is not hospice.

"Whereas palliative can begin at any point along the cancer care continuum, hospice care begins when curative treatment is no longer the goal of care and the sole focus is quality of life.

Palliative care can help patients and their loved ones make the transition from treatment meant to cure or control the disease to hospice care by:

  • preparing them for physical changes that may occur near the end of life

  • helping them cope with the different thoughts and emotional issues that arise

  • providing support for family members" from National Cancer Institute