Palliative Care and End-of-Life Communication

Authored by: Elaine Wittenberg , Joy V. Goldsmith

The Routledge Handbook of Health Communication

Print publication date:  September  2021
Online publication date:  September  2021

Print ISBN: 9780367488956
eBook ISBN: 9781003043379
Adobe ISBN:


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This chapter reviews palliative care and end-of-life communication research. The communication specific to palliative and hospice care is described. A unique body of work from communication studies that provides a model for understanding palliative care communication is COMFORT, an acronym standing for the seven basic principles of palliative care communication. The seven principles of COMFORT are detailed, with the inclusion of illness narratives from a prostate cancer patient and his partner that crystalize key concepts of each principle. Provider, patient/family, and system communication barriers are presented as significant areas of challenge to researchers. In the chapter’s conclusion, future areas of research recommended by the authors include provider training, expansion of palliative care contexts (digital, telehealth), and the development, testing, and dissemination and implementation of interventions. Throughout the chapter, health disparities and inequities are emphasized.

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