Background: Patients with serious respiratory illness and their caregivers suffer considerable burdens, and palliative care is a fundamental right for anyone who needs it. However, the overwhelming majority of patients do not receive timely palliative care before the end of life, despite robust evidence for improved outcomes. Goals: This policy statement by the American Thoracic Society (ATS) and partnering societies advocates for improved integration of high-quality palliative care early in the care continuum for patients with serious respiratory illness and their caregivers and provides clinicians and policymakers with a framework to accomplish this. Methods: An international and interprofessional expert committee, including patients and caregivers, achieved consensus across a diverse working group representing pulmonary-critical care, palliative care, bioethics, health law and policy, geriatrics, nursing, physiotherapy, social work, pharmacy, patient advocacy, psychology, and sociology. Results: The committee developed fundamental values, principles, and policy recommendations for integrating palliative care in serious respiratory illness care across seven domains: 1) delivery models, 2) comprehensive symptom assessment and management, 3) advance care planning and goals of care discussions, 4) caregiver support, 5) health disparities, 6) mass casualty events and emergency preparedness, and 7) research priorities. The recommendations encourage timely integration of palliative care, promote innovative primary and secondary or specialist palliative care delivery models, and advocate for research and policy initiatives to improve the availability and quality of palliative care for patients and their caregivers. Conclusions: This multisociety policy statement establishes a framework for early palliative care in serious respiratory illness and provides guidance for pulmonary-critical care clinicians and policymakers for its proactive integration.
Keywords: advance care planning; caregivers; healthcare disparities; lung diseases; quality of life.