As one of the first academic palliative care programs in the United States, the MGH Palliative Care Service offers a number of services to help patients and their families live as well and as fully as possible when faced with a life-threatening illness. An afternoon symposium on "The Future of Palliative Care" was held for MGH staff and former palliative care fellows April 24 in honor of the service's 12th anniversary.
Approximately 85 attendees heard from nationally recognized palliative care experts on the history and future of palliative care. Speakers included Diane Meier, MD, director of the Center to Advance Palliative Care and director of the Lilian and Benjamin Hertzberg Palliative Care Institute at Mount Sinai School of Medicine; Eric Cassell, MD, a national leader in patient-physician communication; and Charles von Gunten, MD, PhD, provost of the Center for Palliative Studies at San Diego Hospice and Palliative Care.
J. Andrew Billings, MD, director of the MGH Palliative Care Service, commented, "We have been fortunate to enjoy such support from our clinical colleagues and the hospital administration in building this innovative program. We have become a national model for a specialized service and in not limiting palliative care to the last days or weeks of life. Foremost, the staff has recognized how favorably patients and their families respond to such a service, how we support clinicians and make their lives easier and how we significantly improve the quality of care here."
Working in collaboration with primary care physicians or specialists, the MGH Palliative Care Service assists patients and their families with pain and symptom control, emotional and spiritual support, establishing goals of care and advance care directives, and planning for care after hospitalization. The service also provides inpatient hospice admissions, outpatient visits, a Cancer Pain Clinic, home visits and bereavement follow-up. Patients and their families are seen at all stages of a life-threatening illness.
The Palliative Care Service welcomes hospital and outpatient referrals, as well as requests for information from health care providers, patients and family members. For more information, call (617) 724-9197.