Ira Byock of Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center discusses the roles and boundaries of palliative care. According to Byock, doctors can sometimes make the mistake of treating diseases instead of treating patients. The focus should be on the person, he argues, because the fundamental nature of illness is personal, not biological. In palliative care, as in medicine in general, all treatment decisions should be made in a highly personalized way. The goal is to match individual values and preferences to available options. Byock argues that doctors who practice palliative care and hospice need to be clear that they do not perform assisted suicide. The ultimate goal, he says, is to give people the opportunity to die well, and not merely eliminate the suffering by eliminating the sufferer.
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