With a focus on improving quality of life for patients, palliative care is a rapidly growing medical subspecialty focusing on the care of patients with serious illness. Basic symptom management, discussions of prognostic understanding, and eliciting treatment goals are essential pieces in the practice of nearly all physicians. Nonetheless, many complex patients with a serious, life-threatening illness benefit from consultation with palliative care specialists, who are trained and experienced in complex symptom management and challenging communication interactions, including medical decision making and aligning goals of care. This article discusses the changing role of modern palliative care, addresses common misconceptions, and presents an argument for early integration of palliative care in the treatment of patients dealing with serious illness.
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