The Development, Status, and Future of Palliative Care

Palliative Care: Transforming the Care of Serious Illness, the latest addition to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Series on Health Policy, is edited by Diane E. Meier, M.D., Stephen L. Isaacs, J.D. and Robert G. Hughes, Ph.D. This book provides a comprehensive understanding of the new field that is transforming the way Americans deal with serious illness.

After providing an overview of the field, the book goes on to reprint 25 of the most important articles of the field, serving as an important guide in developing meaningful approaches which lead to better health and health care for all Americans.

The opening chapter is an introductory overview to palliative care written by Diane E. Meier, M.D., one of the field's leaders and a recipient of a MacArthur Foundation "genius award" in 2009. This essay examines the emergence of palliative care and why care of the seriously ill is an important issue within the health and health care arena.

Meier cites an aging population, the increase in life expectancy, the cost of caring for the seriously ill, and the dissatisfaction with the current care of the seriously ill as reasons the field of palliative care emerged. After examining the history of coping with death and providing care for the dying, Meier addresses the social, legal and ethical concerns that prompted change in the caring for the seriously ill. Finally, she turns her attention to the growth of palliative care as a field, offering several explanations for its rapid growth before discussion on the future of palliative care.