How can we make the pain go away? Public policies to manage pain at the end of life

Gerontologist. 2008 Aug;48(4):423-31. doi: 10.1093/geront/48.4.423.


The continued undertreatment of pain at the end of life is a substantive public health problem that has not been resolved through increased public awareness, the issuance of clinical guidance for providers, or expanded organizational commitments. In this forum, we illuminate the role of public policies in promoting pain management. We review federal and state policies and consider empirical evaluations that compared the quality of state policies and the factors that contributed to their formation. We resolve that any organized interest in improving end-of-life care should begin by focusing on the development and expansion of those state policies that support the provision of evidence-based medicine for reducing the amount of pain an individual experiences at the end of life. Although empirical research is needed to determine which particular aspects of state pain policy are most critical and how these policies can be implemented most effectively, any organized effort that advances state medical board activity or another state policy would appear to be making an important step toward making the pain at the end of life go away.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Federal Government
  • Health Policy*
  • Humans
  • Pain Management*
  • State Government
  • Supreme Court Decisions
  • Terminal Care* / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Terminal Care* / methods
  • United States