Center for Palliative Care and Clinical Ethics Created

February 09, 2005

"This will make it easier to coordinate and improve care for patients who face very challenging problems as they cope with serious illness."

            Patients, their families and medical professionals can turn to a new Center for Palliative Care and Clinical Ethics to seek out expert help to cope with some of the troubling circumstances that can accompany serious illness.

            The new center at the University of Rochester Medical Center brings together the Palliative Care Program, which helps enhance quality of life for seriously ill patients, and the Program in Clinical Ethics, which can play a crucial role for people facing some of medicine’s thorniest questions. Doctors and scientists at the center will study and attempt to improve the quality of care for all seriously ill patients. The center is also designed to prepare young doctors for some of the complex situations they’ll encounter when treating very ill patients in the future.

            “There is a tremendous opportunity for collaboration and cooperation between these two areas,” says Timothy Quill, M.D., a palliative care expert who heads the new center. “This will make it easier to coordinate and improve care for patients who face very challenging problems as they cope with serious illness.”

            The co-director of the center is Jane Greenlaw, Ph.D., who directs the medical center’s Program in Clinical Ethics.

            Both the palliative care and the ethics programs provide advice and alternatives on a variety of issues. The Ethics Consultation Service is available to patients, families, and all members of a health care team who are having trouble sorting out knotty ethical issues. Issues might include sorting out conflict about what type of care is most appropriate, perhaps around the role of advanced technology or experimental therapy in treating a patient with a life-threatening illness. The program was created more than a decade ago and is available to medical professionals and patients in several hospitals throughout the region.

            The Palliative Care Program, which aims to relieve pain and suffering and to enhance the quality of life for people with serious illness, currently serves as a resource for inpatients at Strong Memorial Hospital, Highland Hospital, and Monroe Community Hospital. The service, which began in 2001, is available to anyone who is seriously ill, even if full recovery is expected eventually, with a referral from the primary doctor. The program’s community-wide pain-management initiative, in collaboration with the Rochester Health Commission and Excellus Blue Cross/Blue Shield, was recently recognized nationally by the Institute of Medicine. The Palliative Care Program is a finalist for this year’s Circle of Life Award given by the American Hospital Association.

            Both programs are growing: The ethics program service is making its experts available to community hospitals in the region, while palliative care consultations are now being made available outpatients and to patients in their own homes.

            “We’re lucky in Rochester to have both outstanding programs in clinical ethics and in palliative care,” says Quill. “Both deal with very complex clinical issues that affect patients and their families every day. We want people to know if they face an ethics conflict that isn’t easily solved, or if they are in treatment and have inadequate pain and symptom management, they have a place to turn.”

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