Do not confuse hospice with palliative care – they are NOT the same thing.   

Some confusion may arise because when a doctor becomes a palliative care physician, they earn a  board certification in hospice and palliative care.

As a palliative care specialist, your focus is not just on your patient’s survival, but on his or her quality of life and overall well-being.
-Ricky Persson, GapMedics Blog

Palliative care is specialized medical care for people living with a serious illness. This type of care focuses on relieving the symptoms and stress of a serious illness. The goal is to improve the patient’s and family’s quality of life.

Palliative care is provided by a specially trained team of doctors, nurses, and other specialists who work with a patient’s other doctors to provide extra support. Palliative care is based on the patient’s needs, not on the patient’s prognosis. This care is appropriate at any age and stage in a serious illness, and it can be provided with curative treatment.
-definition from Center to Advance Palliative Care

End-of-life care is not the same thing as palliative care.

Palliative Care and Hospice CarePalliative care is essentially adopting a plan of care that aims to control symptoms and provide physical, psychosocial, and spiritual support to patients as opposed to pursuing aggressive treatment that can often worsen symptoms and pain. Improving the quality of life during a time when the patient is going through health issues is a vital aspect of this type of care.
-Definition from Xixuan James Zheng April 30, 2016 Opinion – Berkeley Political Review

Palliative care is required for a wide range of diseases. The majority of adults in need of palliative care have chronic diseases such as cardiovascular diseases (38.5%), cancer (34%), chronic respiratory diseases (10.3%), AIDS (5.7%) and diabetes (4.6%). Many other conditions may require palliative care, including kidney failure, chronic liver disease, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, neurological disease, dementia, congenital anomalies and drug-resistant tuberculosis.

Pain is one of the most frequent and serious symptoms experienced by patients in need of palliative care. Opioid analgesics are essential for treating the pain associated with many advanced progressive conditions. For example, 80% of patients with AIDS or cancer, and 67% of patients with cardiovascular disease or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease will experience moderate to severe pain at the end of their lives.
-World Health Organization, 19 Feb. 2018

It is estimated that close to 60% of patients who would benefit from palliative care do not receive it, despite the availability of community and hospital-based palliative care.
June, 2019 NEJM Catalyst Insights Report

There aren’t nearly enough palliative care physicians to fulfill  the need for palliative care. There are wide variations across the country in availability of qualified palliative care physicians.   In San Diego, studying data from 2016 (Appendix 2),  there were 82 hospice/palliative care doctors per 100,000 patients 65 years and older.

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(article courtesy of Hemlock Society of San Diego

(photos courtesy of

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