2.1 What is the definition of palliative care?

The word palliative derives from the Latin ‘pallium’, meaning cloak or covering. It is reflected in the Middle Eastern blessing: “May you be wrapped in tenderness, you my brother, as if in a cloak.”

We could use the word ‘cloak’ to symbolise the holistic care we aim for, which encompasses the physical, psychological, social and spiritual aspects of care, and is highlighted in the following definition of palliative care:

Palliative care is an approach that improves the quality of life of patients and their families facing the problems associated with life threatening illness, through the prevention and relief of suffering by means of early identification and impeccable assessment and treatment of pain and other problems, physical, psychosocial and spiritual.” (World Health Organisation, 2002)

The early development of the palliative care ethos was synonymous with cancer care, but as research in palliative care developed it became recognised that people living with life limiting, non-malignant illness had as many complex care needs as those suffering with cancer. The recognised definition of palliative care devised by the World Health Organisation (WHO) was therefore revised to incorporate the care of those with life limiting illnesses.

Further reading

The following are palliative care guidelines specific to UK geographical areas:

Actions for End of Life Care 2014-2016 [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] NHS England

Strategic Framework for Action on Palliative and End of Life Care (2015) Scottish Government

Palliative care (Wales) NHS Wales

Living Matters, Dying Matters strategy 2010 Department of Health Northern Ireland

UK Government commitment to high quality end of life care UK Government, Department for Health

2 Palliative and end of life care in Parkinson’s

2.2 What are the principles of palliative care?