NHPCO comments on palliative sedation

A statement about palliative sedation from the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO) offers guidance to hospice and palliative care professionals about the appropriate use of the technique.

Although palliative sedation often is not used, there is much misunderstanding about the practice, according to J. Donald Schumacher, president and CEO of the NHPCO. "Our intention is to address the ethical issues surrounding palliative sedation and help hospice and palliative care providers create policies and guidelines to ensure they are well-prepared concerning this treatment option," Schumacher says.

Approved by the NHPCO board of directors in December 2009, the statement and commentary appeared in the May 2010 issue of The Journal of Pain and Symptom Management, and is publicly available. The statement addresses:

* availability of palliative sedation;

* proportionality of its use;

* interdisciplinary evaluation of each case;

* education of all professionals involved in providing palliative sedation;

* existential suffering concerns;

* relationship to euthanasia and assisted suicide.

The complete statement and commentary, as it appears in The Journal of Pain and Symptom Management, is available at the NHPCO web site. Go to and click on the link for "NHPCO Ethical Statements and Position Statements."