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Palliative Care

Comforting hands.

Palliative care focuses on helping patients and families improve their quality of life in the face of serious illness. Our palliative care team in Kansas City partners with the specialists providing active treatment to cure or control disease. We aid in symptom management, focus on mental, spiritual and emotional care, and help patients make and communicate desired care decisions.

While hospice care at the end of life is an important part of our field, palliative care is far broader. Our mission is to help patients and families live as fully as possible while working to cure or manage complex illness.

Related conditions

Palliative care offers benefits to patients facing a wide range of complex or chronic medical conditions. We help patients manage symptoms and concerns to promote their quality of life as they strive to survive and thrive.

Palliative care goals

The palliative care team's medical expertise is focused on symptom control. We provide symptom assessment and work to deeply understand not only what's causing pain or nausea or depression or anxiety, but also how various medicines or treatments in use to combat the underlying disease may be causing or contributing to those symptoms.

Our specialty-trained physicians, nurses and social workers:

  • Relieve suffering through the treatment of pain and other disease symptoms
  • Provide psychological and spiritual care to patients and families
  • Help patients live each day as well as possible
  • Promote and facilitate patient-centered decisions
  • Coordinate palliative home health and hospice services
  • Provide emotional support for family members

We also address the mental and psychological impact severe symptoms or multiple mild symptoms may have on day-to-day life.

We team with patients and their families to help them live as fully as possible through difficult treatments. We are not end-of-life care providers, but rather offer an extra layer of support to help patients and families shoulder the physical, emotional and spiritual burden of living with and managing serious health issues. – Karin Porter-Williamson, MD

Palliative medicine specialist

When to consider palliative care

Many patients facing complex or chronic conditions wonder if palliative care could benefit them.

If you have any of the following thoughts, we encourage you to ask your physician for a referral to palliative care. You may benefit from a one-time consult or may want to plan regular visits to build an ongoing relationship with a palliative care specialist.

  • My treatment is causing its own set of symptoms. I wish I had more help managing these.
  • I'd like to maintain the best possible quality of life, even while pursuing treatment or controlling symptoms.
  • I need someone to talk to about living with a serious disease and the possibility that I could die.
  • My family is having a hard time accepting my diagnosis and needs.
  • I want to remain as independent as possible for as long as I can.
  • I want to have a voice in my care plan now in case I become unable to speak for myself.
  • I need more support communicating with doctors and family members.

Our specialists can help address needs spanning advanced care, communications with your loved ones, financial concerns, personal care, symptom management and more.

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How to help someone sick

It can be difficult to know what to do or say when a friend or loved one has a serious illness. Some of our patients share their thoughts on the actions they find most meaningful.

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Palliative care vs. hospice care

Watch a video clip detailing nuances of palliative care vs. hospice care.

Dr. Karin B Porter-Williamson:
Both hospice and palliative care are team-based care that's focused on quality of life and helping patients and families when they're dealing with serious illness, but the really critical difference is that palliative care can be delivered at any age, at any stage of illness and can be delivered right alongside curative interventions, whereas hospice is a part of the healthcare system globally that folks decide to use when they may be coming much closer to the end of life and want to use a different part of the healthcare system staying at home with loved ones and a team coming to them to ensure comfort at home.

Why choose us

  • The integration of our program with an academic medical center and the No. 1 hospital in Kansas City and in Kansas as ranked by U.S. News & World Report ensures we see a broad spectrum of patients, families and conditions. We have broad and deep experience to support patients with diverse diagnoses and individual goals.
  • Our palliative care doctors collaborate with disease-specific physicians to provide patient and family support, improve comfort and address quality of life issues. Patients and families need not choose between active treatment and palliative care. They can receive both.
  • As part of an academic medical center with the University of Kansas Medical Center as well as The University of Kansas Cancer Center, we provide patients with access to clinical trials often not available elsewhere in the region. Our palliative care doctors partner closely with researchers and clinicians leading these studies to ensure patients receive useful palliative treatment while maintaining eligibility for trials.


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Our palliative care program is growing. Please help us provide more care to more patients and families. Your gift can make a difference.

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