Over the past two decades, paediatric palliative care has emerged as both a primary approach and as its own medical subspecialty, the overall aim of which is to ease suffering for children with life-threatening illness and their families through a concurrent model of care. However, most discussions have been focused on the transition to palliative care when no realistic hope for cure exists. We believe that, because the course of cancer is so unpredictable, this idea is misleading. Indeed, palliative care is increasingly being recognized as being about not just how to cope with the process of dying, but also about how to engage in living when faced with a life-threatening illness. This article will examine our current understanding of several areas of palliative care, with the ultimate message that palliative care is simply a novel term for the total care of a child and family, an approach that should be applied consistently and concurrently regardless of disease status. By improving familiarity with palliative care and building relationships with palliative care specialists, the paediatric oncology clinician will ensure that the best care possible for children and families is provided, regardless of outcome.
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