What is palliative care?

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) endorsed National Consensus Project for Quality Palliative Care Fourth Edition, palliative care “focuses on expert assessment and management of pain and other symptoms, assessment and support of caregiver needs, and coordination of care. Palliative care attends to the physical, functional, psychological, practical, and spiritual consequences of a serious illness. It is a person- and family-centered approach to care, providing seriously ill people relief from the symptoms and stress of an illness. Through early integration into the care plan of seriously ill people, palliative care improves quality of life for both the patient and the family.”

The following features characterize palliative care philosophy and delivery:

  • Appropriate at any stage in serious illness, and it is beneficial when provided along with treatments of curative or life-prolonging intent
  • Provided over time to patients based on their needs and not their prognosis
  • Offered in all care settings by various organizations
    Focused on what is most important to the patient, family, and caregivers, assessing their goals and preferences and determining how to best achieve them
  • Interdisciplinary to attend to the holistic care needs of the patient and their identified family and caregivers

What is hospice care?

Hospice is both a philosophy of care and an insurance benefit covered under Medicare, Medicaid, most private insurance plans, HMOs, and other managed care organizations. Hospice is considered the model for compassionate care for people who have a prognosis of 6-months or less because they are dying from their illness, with a focus on caring, not curing. Hospice care is most commonly provided in the patient’s home, but may also be provided in hospitals, nursing homes, and freestanding hospice units.

What is pediatric hospice and palliative medicine?

Pediatric hospice and palliative medicine (PHPM) is both a philosophy and an organized method for delivering competent, compassionate and consistent care to children with serious illness as well as to their families. PHPM is provided along with concurrent disease-modifying therapy when disease-modifying therapy is appropriate, or as the main focus of care when disease-modifying therapy is no longer effective and comfort is of the utmost importance.

The AAP released a policy statement on PHPM in 2013 and reaffirmed this policy in 2020,4 outlining core commitments to the discipline:

  • Being patient centered and family engaged
  • Respecting and partnering with patients and families
  • Pursuing care that is high quality, readily accessible and equitable
  • Providing care across the age spectrum and life span, integrated into the continuum of care
  • Ensuring that all clinicians can provide basic palliative care and consult pediatric palliative and hospice care specialists in a timely manner
  • Improving care through research and quality improvement efforts
Last Updated



American Academy of Pediatrics