Cardinal George’s decision brings attention to hospice care

Cardinal George’s decision brings attention to hospice care

Retired Cardinal Francis George told reporters recently that he’ll be focusing on the quality of his end-of-life care, now that his doctors have run out of options for his cancer treatment.

This news comes just weeks after the Archdiocese of Chicago issued a statement indicating doctors stopped George’s experimental cancer treatment after determining it had not been effective.

George’s decision to focus on quality of life draws attention to the care available to patients who are nearing the end of life. Some health care experts say such discussions often are ignored as our society places great emphasis on treatment and cure. But George’s openness about the direction he is taking may make this sensitive subject easier for some to talk about.

“Here is a prominent person in the Catholic Church who people respect, he is being a role model,” says Dr. Joann Bennett, a palliative medicine specialist at Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove, Ill. “Other people may look to him and say yes, when I can’t be cured or get better I want to focus on quality of life and symptom management. I want to focus on living the best life, at home if possible, and being as comfortable as possible.”

When cure is no longer a goal, many people turn to hospice. Hospice patients no longer receive curative treatment for their underlying disease. Instead, hospice focuses on managing symptoms and providing comfort and support for patients with a life expectancy of months, not years. The goal is to support the patient and his family and to focus on helping him live as comfortably as possible for as long as possible.

“The care you get in hospice focuses on living as comfortably as possible,” Bennett said. “When you do that you focus on one good day at a time.”

When you no longer are seeking curative care, hospice would be appropriate because the focus is on quality of life, says Dr. Paola Smith, medical director for Advocate Hospice.

Both Bennett and Smith say they often are troubled when curative options no longer are available and a patient is told “nothing more can be done.” That’s because while a cure is no longer an alternative, quality-of-life options remain.

“The point is there is always something you can do,” Smith says. “You’re changing the focus from curative to comfort care. We always should be looking at improving quality of life. We should never say there’s nothing left to be done.”



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  1. This is a great article. I just attended a work-related conference yesterday and there were questions on the company’s initiatives regarding palliative care. I work in the finance department so I had no idea what “palliative care” entailed. This article beautifully explains what that care entails and gives us good information on how someone’s quality of life should be considered when there is no more cure.

  2. I lost my father just two weeks ago, and he was in hospice care for the last two months of his life. With hospice we were able to give him his last gift….to be at home. What a gift hospice care is! Hospice caregivers are truely angles here on earth.

  3. A great read. Advocate IMMC has Schwartz Center Rounds every other month where we discuss cases and other issues that fall along the line of compassionate caregiving. Ken Schwartz (Boston healthcare attorney who died of lung cancer at the age of 40) founded the Schwartz Center Rounds because he wanted to strengthen the relationship between patients and caregivers & preserving the human connection in healthcare. As with Cardinal George having the right support system such as pallative care will allow him to have the quality of life that something as simple as a kind word, a soft touch, and compassion given to the family. Ken Schwartz stated it well, it “made the unbearable bearable”. I encourage everyone to become involved with the Schwartz Center Rounds sessions where discussion surrounds compassionate care which can truly be helpful in pallative care situations.

About the Author

Kathleen Troher
Kathleen Troher

Kathleen Troher, health enews contributor, is manager of public affairs and marketing at Advocate Good Sheperd Hospital in Barrington. She has more than 20 years of journalism experience, with her primary focus in the newspaper and magazine industry. Kathleen graduated from Columbia College in Chicago, earning her degree in journalism with an emphasis on science writing and broadcasting. She loves to travel with her husband, Ross. They share their home with a sweet Samoyed named Maggie.