Journal: Journal of palliative medicine
Palliative care is expanding rapidly in the United States.
People with advanced illness usually want their healthcare where they live-at home-not in the hospital. Innovative models of palliative care that better meet the needs of seriously ill people at lower cost should be explored.
Psychiatric research in the 1950s and 1960s showed potential for psychedelic medications to markedly alleviate depression and suffering associated with terminal illness. More recent published studies have demonstrated the safety and efficacy of psilocybin, MDMA, and ketamine when administered in a medically supervised and monitored approach. A single or brief series of sessions often results in substantial and sustained improvement among people with treatment-resistant depression and anxiety, including those with serious medical conditions. Need and Clinical Considerations: Palliative care clinicians occasionally encounter patients with emotional, existential, or spiritual suffering, which persists despite optimal existing treatments. Such suffering may rob people of a sense that life is worth living. Data from Oregon show that most terminally people who obtain prescriptions to intentionally end their lives are motivated by non-physical suffering. This paper overviews the history of this class of drugs and their therapeutic potential. Clinical cautions, adverse reactions, and important steps related to safe administration of psychedelics are presented, emphasizing careful patient screening, preparation, setting and supervision.
Objectives: To determine the relative contributions of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) to patients' self-ratings of efficacy for common palliative care symptoms. Design: This is an electronic record-based retrospective cohort study. Model development used logistic regression with bootstrapped confidence intervals (CIs), with standard errors clustered to account for multiple observations by each patient. Setting: This is a national Canadian patient portal. Participants: A total of 2,431 patients participated. Main Outcome Measures: Self-ratings of efficacy of cannabis, defined as a three-point reduction in neuropathic pain, anorexia, anxiety symptoms, depressive symptoms, insomnia, and post-traumatic flashbacks. Results: We included 26,150 observations between October 1, 2017 and November 28, 2018. Of the six symptoms, response was associated with increased THC:CBD ratio for neuropathic pain (odds ratio [OR]: 3.58; 95% CI: 1.32-9.68; p = 0.012), insomnia (OR: 2.93; 95% CI: 1.75-4.91; p < 0.001), and depressive symptoms (OR: 1.63; 95% CI: 1.07-2.49; p = 0.022). Increased THC:CBD ratio was not associated with a greater response of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)-related flashbacks (OR: 1.43; 95% CI: 0.60-3.41; p = 0.415) or anorexia (OR: 1.61; 95% CI: 0.70-3.73; p = 0.265). The response for anxiety symptoms was not significant (OR: 1.13; 95% CI: 0.77-1.64; p = 0.53), but showed an inverted U-shaped curve, with maximal benefit at a 1:1 ratio (50% THC). Conclusions: These preliminary results offer a unique view of real-world medical cannabis use and identify several areas for future research.
To provide preference-sensitive care, we propose that clinicians might routinely inquire about their patients' bucket-lists and discuss the impact (if any) of their medical treatments on their life goals.
Little is known about state-level variation in patterns of hospice use, an important indicator of quality of care at the end of life. Findings may identify states where targeted efforts for improving end-of-life care may be warranted.
Abstract “Death rattle” is a term used to describe the noisy sound produced by dying patients caused by the oscillatory movements of secretions in the upper airways. Antimuscarinic drugs, including atropine, scopolamine (hyoscine hydrobromide), hyoscine butylbromide, and glycopyrronium, have been used to diminish the noisy sound by reducing airway secretions. We report on the effectiveness of sublingual atropine eyedrops in alleviating death rattle in a terminal cancer patient. We present a 58-year-old man with pancreatic cancer who was admitted to our hospital because of severe dyspnea, cough, and death rattle with excessive bronchial secretion as a result of multiple lung metastases. We administered 1% atropine eyedrops sublingually to obviate the need for subcutaneous infusions and to prevent somnolence. On the basis of our experience, we conclude that atropine eyedrops, administered sublingually for distressing upper respiratory secretions, may be an effective alternative to the injection of antimuscarinic drugs, or as an option when other antimuscarinic formulations are not available.
Abstract Background: Families with young children often struggle to talk about and cope with a parent’s life-threatening illness and potential death. Adult interdisciplinary palliative medicine teams often feel unprepared to facilitate the open communication with these children that has been shown to reduce anxiety, depression, and other behavioral problems. In pediatric settings, child life specialists routinely provide this support to hospitalized children as well as their siblings and parents. Although these services are the standard of care in pediatrics, no research reports their use in the care of children of adults with serious illness. Objective: Our aim is to describe a pilot child life consultation service for the children of seriously ill adult inpatients. Design: We summarize the support needs of these children, their families, and the medical staff caring for them and report our experience with developing a child life consultation service to meet these needs. Setting/Subjects: Our service assists seriously ill adult inpatients and their families in a university medical center. Results: Informal feedback from families and staff was uniformly positive. During consultations, family and child coping mechanisms were assessed and supported. Interventions were chosen to enhance the children’s processing and self-expression and to facilitate family communication. Conclusion: All hospitals should consider providing broad-based in-service training enabling their staff to improve the support they offer to the children of seriously ill parents. Medical centers with access to child life services should consider developing a child life consultation service to further enhance this support. More research is needed to evaluate both the short- and long-term clinical impact of these interventions. AA was a 54-year-old man with severe liver damage caused by blunt trauma during a farming accident months earlier. His course was complicated by hemorrhage, multiple infections, and surgeries, and ultimately multi-organ system failure requiring extensive life-sustaining interventions. The palliative care service was consulted by the intensive care unit (ICU) team 3 days prior to AA’s death. A family meeting was held with his wife, sister, and sister-in-law, during which they chose not to further escalate medical interventions. It was clear to all involved that AA was dying. It was equally clear that it would be hard to let him go. Foremost among his family members' many concerns was how they would talk to his three children, ages 7 to 15 years old, during a planned visit to the hospital. Struggling with her own sense of impending loss, AA’s wife needed emotional support and the words to tell her children that their father was going to die. The children needed help to hear and process those words. A child life specialist was consulted.
Abstract Access to palliative care has been advocated as a human right by international associations, based on the right to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health. It has been argued that failure to provide palliative care for patients facing severe pain could constitute cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment. Yet the governments of many countries throughout the world have still not acknowledged a human right to access palliative care for all those who need it. The European Association for Palliative Care (EAPC), the International Association for Hospice and Palliative Care (IAHPC), and Human Rights Watch (HRW) discussed this at the EAPC congress in 2011 and formulated the Lisbon Challenge: Governments must: (1) put in place health policies that address the needs of patients with life-limiting or terminal illnesses; (2) ensure access to essential medicines, including controlled medications, to all who need them; (3) ensure that health care workers receive adequate training on palliative care and pain management at undergraduate levels; and (4) facilitate and promote the implementation of palliative care services as part of available health services.
As palliative care grows and evolves, robust programs to train and develop the next generation of leaders are needed. Continued integration of palliative care into the fabric of usual health care requires leaders who are prepared to develop novel programs, think creatively about integration into the current health care environment, and focus on sustainability of efforts. Such leadership development initiatives must prepare leaders in clinical, research, and education realms to ensure that palliative care matures and evolves in diverse ways.