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Palliative Care: Still Largely Misunderstood by the Public

Author: Petrina Vousden
15 September 2016

More than half of Irish adults admit they have a basic or minimal understanding of what palliative care involves, according to a new survey.The All-Ireland Institute of Hospice and Palliative Care (AIIHPC) which commissioned the poll said the results highlight the need for a greater understanding of the benefits of palliative care.

Eighty-five percent of respondents did not believe that there is sufficient public understanding of palliative care.


Head of Institute at AIIHPC Karen Charnley said the survey showed the need for greater public education on the benefits of palliative care and when it is appropriate.


She said: “By focussing on meeting people with life limiting condition’s physical, social, emotional and spiritual needs and involving friends and family, palliative care helps maintain quality of life.


“We want to raise awareness that palliative care can benefit the quality of life of any person with a life-limiting or life-shortening illness. Palliative care puts the individual at the centre of every decision, helping them to make choices and supporting their families and carers.


“It is very important that the public are well informed and feel comfortable to discuss their concerns beyond the diagnosis of illness that cannot be cured.” 


Among the 55% with a low level of understanding, 27% identified a basic understanding, 12% a low level and 16% said that they did not understand what palliative care involves at all.


Young people (18-34) were more likely to know little about palliative care as 29% reported no level of understanding compared to 12% for 35-54 year olds and 4% among over 55s.



HSE National Lead for Palliative Care, Sheilagh Reaper-Reynolds encouraged the public to take the opportunity to find out more and to talk about palliative care within families and also with health professionals.


She said: “Through our National Clinical Programme for Palliative Care and by supporting initiatives such as Palliative Care Week, our aim is to alleviate fears and anxieties surrounding palliative care services. This will help ensure that people with life-limiting conditions and their families can easily access the type of palliative care services that best meet their needs.”


Palliative Care Week is taking place from Monday 3 October.


Information about palliative care and Palliative Care Week is available at where a new section for health and social care professionals has been added.

The latest research was carried out as part of an omnibus survey by iReach Insights on a representative sample of 1000 adults across Ireland.


The All Ireland Institute of Hospice and Palliative Care (AIIHPC) aims to improve end-of-life care and experience on the island of Ireland by enhancing capacity, developing knowledge, promoting learning, influencing policy and shaping practice. AIIHPC is comprised of a consortium of Health Agencies and Universities in the North and South of Ireland and its work is focused on three areas – policy & practice, research and education.



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