According to the WHO (2002), palliative care seeks to improve the quality of life of patients and their families faced with the consequences of a potentially terminal illness through prevention and alleviation of suffering, identified early and evaluated accurately, and by treatment of pain and other related physical, psychological and spiritual problems.
Palliative care :
alleviates pain and other problematic symptoms ;
supports life and considers death to be a normal process ;
seeks neither to accelerate nor to delay death ;
incorporates the psychological and spiritual aspects of patient care ;
offers a support system to assist patients in living as actively as possible until death ;
offers a support system to assist families in dealing with the patient’s illness and their own mourning ;
uses a team approach in responding to the needs of patients and their families, including assistance in mourning if necessary ;
can improve the quality of life and perhaps also positively affect the progression of the illness ;
is applicable early in the progression of the illness , in combination with other treatments that can prolong life, like chemotherapy and radiotherapy, and including the investigations that are necessary to better understand the problematic clinical complications so as to be able to manage them.
National Cancer Control Programmes, policies and managerial guidelines, 2nd ed., WHO 2002, p 84.