Research Project

Julia McMillan

Major: English and Public Health
Faculty Advisor: Professor Anita Franzione

Policy Presentation Theme: Sustainability, Health, Well-Being

More than fifty years have passed since palliative care was first introduced as a pain-mitigating service for patients dying from cancer, and since then the patient population that may benefit from this medical service has expanded considerably. However, palliative care’s complex association with hospice care and its various definitions across medical literature have contributed to the term’s continued association with end-of-life care and resulted in a stigma rooted in society’s fear of death. This paper examines the confusion associated with the term palliative care through an analysis of terminology that has appeared in definitions over time. I begin by providing a brief history of the origins of palliative care and hospice care, and later shift to a discussion of the specific terminology that has perpetuated negative connotations of palliative care. According to my findings, confusion and death-related stigma have resulted in limited access to palliative care, and an unwillingness of physicians to refer patients to palliative care services. We must confront the semantic dissonance and death-related stigma that plagues the term palliative care through education and the creation of a stronger, universal definition.