According to World Health Organization (2002), palliative care is the holistic approach improving the quality of life of patients and families facing problems associated with a life-threatening illness, through the prevention and relief of suffering by means like: early identification and correct assessment and treatment of pain and other problems (physical, psychosocial and spiritual).
Pediatric Palliative Care
“Palliative care for children and young people with life‐limiting conditions is an active and total approach to care from the point of diagnosis or recognition, embracing physical, emotional, social and spiritual elements through to death and beyond. It focuses on enhancement of quality of life for the child/young person and support for the family and includes the management of distressing symptoms, provision of short breaks and care through death and bereavement” (Together for Short Lives 2013).
The basic aim of Pediatric Palliative Care
The basic aim of Pediatric Palliative Care is to ensure the best possible quality of life for the ill child and the family, according to their beliefs, preferences and priorities.
Children Who Can Benefit
All the neonates, infants, children, adolescents and young adults who suffer of a chronic and serious illness, for which the current medical science does not possess standard therapeutic means, resulting to a stability or progression of the disease. In an international study (Stephen R. Connor & Maria Cecilia Sepulveda Bermedo, 2014), is estimated that 1,2 million children (6% of general population) need palliative care services in the terminal stage of their illness. The primary causes of death are cognitive disorders and neonatal conditions.
Internationally, four groups of life threatening illnesses have been recognized:
- Life-threatening conditions for which curative treatment may be feasible, but can fail (i.e. cancer, organ failure of the heart, liver or kidney)
- Conditions requiring long periods of intensive treatment aimed at prolonging life, but where premature death is still possible (i.e. cystic fibrosis, HIV, hereditary diseases)
- Progressive degenerative conditions, without curative options, finally fatal (i.e. SMA, neurometabolic disorders)
- Severe, non-degenerative conditions or disabilities subject to fatal complications (i.e. severe cerebral palsy, brain or spinal cord injury)