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Pallative Care Becoming More Important for Doctors to Learn

Pallative Care Becoming More Important for Doctors to Learn

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Dr. Kim Mulvihill ReportingTerri Schiavo is living out her final hours in a Florida hospice. Over the past few years, Schiavo has not been getting traditional hospice care. Dr. Kim Mulvihill takes a look at the special care created to help the very sick die with dignity.

Jamie Reynolds: "Love is eternal. It is not necessary to keep people here in pain."

Jamie Reynolds of Fairfax speaks from experience. In October, Susan, his wife of twenty years, died from breast cancer. In the final months of her life the couple sought help from palliative care experts at UCSF.

Jamie Reynolds: “I don’t know how we would have gotten by without it. It would have been a nightmare. It would have been more of a nightmare than it already was, much more.”

Palliative care really means comfort care. The goal is not to cure someone, but to provide comfort and maintain the highest possible quality of life as the end comes near. Dr. Steve Pantilat is the specialist who helped Susan Reynolds as she died.

Steve Pantilat, M.D.: “We have very good treatments for pain and discomfort so that no one who is dying should be in pain or discomfort.”

Death and dying weren't part of the curriculum in medical school 25 years ago. But that's changing, and today students are learning about the emotional, spiritual and practical needs of patients and their loved ones at the end of life. In fact, certain states now require physicians to receive training in pain management and palliative care.

Dr. Pantilat: "We learned a lot about how to take are of people, to promote their dignity, preserve their dignity and take care of them well."

As for Susan Reynolds, she stopped eating three days before she died. On the day she died Susan asked for pain medication, knowing it would sedate her and she would probably not wake up.

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