The new Center for Palliative Care and Clinical Ethics is open at the UR Medical Center to help patients, their family members and professional treatment teams cope with anxiety and suffering that sometimes accompanies serious and life-threatening illnesses.

“[The Palliative Care Program and the Program in Clinical Ethics] share many similarities and often see the same patients,” Director of the center and palliative care expert Timothy Quill, M.D., said.

“Since there was a lot of overlap between these two programs, we thought that a formal collaboration between us would be effective.”

Both the Palliative Care Program and the Clinical Ethics Program involve a multitude of disciplines such as medicine, nursing and psychiatry.

“Both these programs have been growing significantly over the past few years, especially the Palliative Care Program,” Quill said.

The Palliative Care Program, which was started four years ago, deals with patients suffering from serious illnesses with little or no chance of getting better.

The program offers patients relief from pain and other symptoms and helps them make end-of-life decisions.

It is available to inpatients at Strong Memorial Hospital, Highland Hospital and Monroe Community Hospital.

Its pain-management project, in association with the Rochester Health Commission and Blue Cross/Blue Shield, was recently recognized by the National Institutes of Health.

The program itself is one of the ten finalists for this year’s Circle of Life Award.

Established in 1990, the program consists of three subdivisions – the Hospital’s Ethics Committee, the Ethics Consultation Committee and the Ethics Education at URMC.

The Hospital’s Ethics Committee, comprised of 25 members from a variety of disciplines and chaired by nephrologist Richard Demme, advises on policy formulation and ensures that such policies pay attention to the interests of the family, the patients, the institution and the members of the team.

The committee consists of three members to help patients, their families and medical professionals with difficult ethical issues.

It tries to resolve conflicts that may arise between the patient’s family and the medical professionals, between the patient and the medical professionals or within the medical professional team.

The ethics education at URMC is responsible for teaching the intensive care units, including the adult and pediatric divisions.

The collaboration between the two programs will also greatly benefit students at URMC.

“It is an innovative and unique program,” Quill said.

“We try to teach students how to deal with advanced diseases and how to help patients make important end-of-life decisions.”

“Making [these programs] centered allows us to collaborate more effectively and therefore we will do a better job at teaching, by avoiding any overlap in content,” Quill said.

“Moreover, the students can learn by being a part of the clinical teams with the consults that serve on the various divisions. We would also be able to collaborate on research projects.”

In addition, third and fourth-year medical students would be eligible to take a combined elective course in palliative care and clinical ethics.

The total budget for both these programs is about half a million dollars. The Palliative Care Program receives additional aid in the form of grants.

The reimbursements for the Palliative Care Program are very fragile and there are no reimbursements for the Clinical Ethics Program.

With the new collaboration in place, it will be possible to apply for grants as a center.

Sridharan can be reached at

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