Palliative Care in the Emergency Department: Recognizing and Meeting the Needs of Seriously Ill Patients

Statement reviewed and approved by AAEM Board of Directors. (9/16/2021)

What is Palliative Care?
The Center to Advance Palliative Care has provided the following definition:

  • Palliative care is specialized medical care for people living with a serious illness. This type of care is focused on providing relief from the symptoms and stress of the illness. The goal is to improve quality of life for both the patient and the family.
  • Palliative care is provided by a specially-trained team of doctors, nurses and other specialists who work together with a patient’s other doctors to provide an extra layer of support. Palliative care is based on the needs of the patient, not on the patient’s prognosis. It is appropriate at any age and at any stage in a serious illness, and it can be provided along with curative treatment. (1)

Early involvement is associated with greater benefits, including improved quality and reduced cost of care. An increasing number of professional society guidelines recommend early palliative involvement, eg., American College of Emergency Physicians 2013 Choosing Wisely Campaign, American Society of Clinical Oncology 2018 Guideline Updates, National Comprehensive Cancer Network 2009, American Thoracic Society 2008 Clinical Policy Statement. (2, 3, 4, 5).

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References (PDF)