educational opportunity throughout many stages of professional development are highlighted.

Palliative medicine is the art and science of child-focused, family-oriented, relationship-centered medical care aimed at enhancing quality of life and minimizing suffering. Palliative care is a model of caring for patients and their families who suffer from life-threatening illnesses. Palliative care focuses on alleviating pain and other symptoms of suffering but also attends to the spiritual, emotional, psychosocial and physical needs of both the patient and the family. Palliative care aims to improve the quality of life of seriously ill children and their families throughout the disease experience and recognizes that helping patients achieve a peaceful death is one of the most important and rewarding services that a healthcare professional can provide. Palliative care completes the developmental circle of competent, compassionate care from birth to death, neither hastening nor prolonging death. Inherent in this definition is the possibility of delivering palliative care in partnership with curative care for children with life-limiting illness, or for children who may not die. [4]

Several authors suggest that many of the skills required to provide good quality palliative care are “generic skills that are fundamental to the practice of medicine in any clinical sphere . . .” [5]. In his critical review of palliative care education, MacDonald [6] comments that palliative medicine is often

. . . listed in the litany of special interest groups that have worthy issues that should be discussed, but for which there is little room in the curriculum. But the principles of palliative care mirror the perceived changes in medical education which deans generally support. For example, who would disagree that our medical students should

  • Spend more time in the community and in the homes of patients

  • Develop a sense of whole person care and move away from a single minded interest in the biology of disease

  • Learn to work in health care teams

  • Develop improved skills in communication, and

  • Consider medical issues in ethical terms

Viewed in this light, palliative care education does not provide the student with information on a “special interest”; rather, the student has the opportunity to work in an environment fulfilling most of the goals of basic medical education. Palliative care is not a competitor, but rather a means to reinforce common ideals.

It is within a broad framework that the future of pediatric palliative care education must be viewed.



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