Palliative and supportive care: at the frontier of medical omnipotence

Ann Oncol. 1996 Feb;7(2):135-8. doi: 10.1093/oxfordjournals.annonc.a010539.


Cancer patients have physical, social, spiritual an emotional needs. They may suffer from severe physical symptoms, from social isolation and a sense of spiritual abandonment, and emotions such as sadness and anxiety, or feeling of deception, helplessness, anger and guilt. In some of them, the disease is rapidly progressive and they ultimately die. Their demanding care evokes intense feelings in health care providers, the more so since these incurable patients represent a challenge, which can be characterized as one of 'medical omnipotence'. It may be assumed that the way health care providers cope with these circumstances profoundly influences the way these patients are cared for. Attitudes regarding the emerging heterogeneous movement of palliative and supportive care and its different models of implementation can be viewed form this vantage point. Here we look at these interrelations and discuss the potential pitfalls if they are ignored and remain unexamined.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Palliative Care* / methods
  • Palliative Care* / psychology
  • Social Support
  • Terminal Care / methods
  • Terminal Care / psychology