There are no villains in this piece but ourselves and our culture. Public institutions and policymakers reflect dominant societal values that still deny dying and death. Although it does occur, change to improve care of the suffering and dying is slow and conflicted with the tension between cure and care. This report encourages continued innovation and collaboration of foundations and others, but focuses on ways in which the government can embrace opportunities to improve existing palliative care, make access to it equitable for all, and help realize better palliative interventions by making research funds more available.
It is a truism that death—not just our own—affects all of us, even if it is a topic most people do not want to contemplate for long. Death is inevitable, but severe suffering is not. Willpower and determination will be required, but it is time to move our public institutions toward policies that emphasize the importance of improving palliative care for those who want and need it. This report identifies the special needs of cancer patients and the importance of the clinical and research establishment involved in cancer care to take a leadership role in modeling the best quality care from diagnosis to death for all Americans.
Kathleen M.Foley, M.D.
Director, Project on Death in America, The Open Society