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Critical Care at the End of Life

On August 15, 2010, New York Governor David Paterson signed the Palliative Care Information Act into law. Thanks to this bill, physicians treating patients diagnosed with a terminal illness or condition will be required to offer the patient and their families a full range of information and counseling about end-of-life care options. This Act can help patients and their families make informed decisions and weigh all of their options for end-of-life care including hospice, aggressive pain management, and palliative care.

Providing patients with the information and support they need, will offer comfort to both the patient and the family during times of stress – and suffering. This Act requires physicians to better understand the sentiments of the patient, and will perhaps provide an appropriate opportunity for physicians to introduce spiritual counseling. The underused services of pastoral care add great value to the patient care teams as support for the patient, and as an intermediary among patient, family, and physician.  
The conversations that hospital Chaplains may have with a patient can provide helpful information about the patient’s religious, social, and cultural context which may inform the patient’s options and decisions for end-of-life treatment.  The Act is a good reminder that as the end-of-life draws near, a greater collaboration between physicians and hospital Chaplains can help to empower the patients’ decisions and provide them with the insight and support they need.