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June 12, 2003

Institute to Enhance Palliative Care established

In collaboration with Family Hospice and Palliative Care, Pitt has established the Institute to Enhance Palliative Care, a community of scholars and health professionals from diverse fields who have joined together to improve care for the seriously ill and dying.

The institute’s goal is to improve end-of-life care by expanding the number and quality of providers of palliative care and to raise awareness of the availability of palliative care. 

The institute “is a response to well-documented shortcomings in the health care system, in which large numbers of dying patients and their families suffer needlessly for lack of comfort, dignity, continuity of care and family support,” said David Barnard, institute director, professor of medicine and director of palliative care education at Pitt’s Center for Bioethics and Health Law.

According to the Institute of Medicine (IOM), 75 percent of patients currently die in institutions; yet a Gallup poll indicates that 85 percent of Americans would prefer to die at home. The IOM also reports that more than 40 percent of patients dying of cancer experience moderate to severe levels of pain in the last month of life. Palliative care seeks to help patients like these remain in their homes if that is their desire and to receive adequate pain medications.

Institute co-directors are Raphael Sciullo, president of Family Hospice and Palliative Care; Elizabeth Chaitin, director of medical ethics and palliative care, UPMC Shadyside, and Robert Arnold, Leo H. Criep Chair in Patient Care, professor of medicine and chief of the medical school’s section of palliative care and medical ethics.

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