Bills Aim to Improve Patient Access to Palliative Care Services
WASHINGTON, D.C. – March 22, 2013 – Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) introduced legislation yesterday that aims to reduce suffering and improve the quality of life of patients undergoing care for serious illnesses such as cancer. The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) strongly supports this legislative effort to ensure that cancer patients suffer less and can focus on getting well.
The legislation supports the growing demand for palliative care, which is specialized medical care that improves the quality of life of patients and their families by focusing on relief from pain, stress and other symptoms of treatment for a serious disease such as cancer. Palliative care is appropriate at any age and any stage of a serious illness and can be provided alongside curative treatment. It is delivered by trained specialists who work together with doctors and nurses in a team-based approach that focuses on the patients’ needs, explains treatment options and gives patients and their families a voice in realizing their treatment goals.
The “Palliative Care and Hospice Education and Training Act” (S.641 and H.R. 1339), would begin to address a serious shortage of health professionals trained in patient palliative care. The bill would create up to 24 Palliative Care Education Centers at medical schools across the country to expand interdisciplinary training, as well as establish fellowships that would provide faculty in medical schools and other health profession schools short-term intensive courses focused on palliative care. Faculty would be able to use the fellowships to upgrade their knowledge for the care of individuals with serious illnesses, and enhance their interdisciplinary teaching skills.
“Palliative care is a big change in health care delivery because it improves the quality of care for seriously ill patients without increasing overall costs. Patients want it because it gives them and their families the support they need when they’re dealing with a serious illness. That’s why palliative care is one the fastest growing trends in health care, and why we need more trained professionals in the field,” said Chris Hansen, president of ACS CAN, the advocacy affiliate of the American Cancer Society. “With improved access to palliative care, patients enjoy a better quality of life as they move toward their ultimate goal, which is to get well and to restore their independence.”
Public opinion research reveals that seven in ten Americans do not know what palliative care is. However, once they understand how it can help patients, family members and other caregivers, 92 percent report they would be highly likely to consider palliative care for themselves or their families if they had a serious illness.
ACS CAN, the nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy affiliate of the American Cancer Society, supports evidence-based policy and legislative solutions designed to eliminate cancer as a major health problem. ACS CAN works to encourage elected officials and candidates to make cancer a top national priority. ACS CAN gives ordinary people extraordinary power to fight cancer with the training and tools they need to make their voices heard. For more information, visit www.acscan.org.
FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT:
Lauren Walens or Steven Weiss
American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network
Phone: (202) 661-5763 or (202) 661-5711
Email: Lauren.Walens@cancer.org or Steve.Weiss@cancer.org
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