The overriding care philosophy in medicine is to prevent death, rather than focus on dying. However, increasing longevity in most parts of the world has resulted for many people in prolonged periods of declining health toward the end of life. This has complicated our understanding of when the dying process begins. As a result, there has been a growing movement within society and among health care systems to focus on finding ways to contribute to the quality of life of patients just before they die. The modern hospice and palliative-care movement has gained distinction as an alternative way of looking at health care. These care philosophies perceive dying as a natural part of the life cycle. Staff members prioritize comfort and quality of life over longevity. However, the goals of hospice and palliative care are often misunderstood by the public. This article is based on interviews with two palliative-care physicians that were conducted as part of a larger study about the place of dying. The goal of these interviews was to obtain the physician perspective of dying at a hospital, at home, and in an institutional setting, as well as to provide readers greater clarity on the palliative and hospice care perspectives within these contexts.
- Dying process
- physician perspective