In the wake of a federal report that highlights the needless suffering of terminally ill patients, The Johns Hopkins University Bioethics Institute and the Maryland Attorney General's office have formed a unique partnership, funded by a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, to investigate ways to improve end-of-life care and eliminate the medical and legal barriers to effective palliative care for terminally ill patients in Maryland.
The first of its kind, this initiative will assess the pain management needs of terminally ill patients and how state policies and regulations influence and limit the way physicians and health care professionals provide medical treatment and prescribe pain medications for terminally ill patients. The Institute will assess whether physicians prescribing narcotics to effectively manage the pain of terminally ill patients face licensure problems, and will identify factors that promote good pain care in hospitals and nursing homes for possible incorporation into state policy. It also will examine potential financial incentives that improve pain management, and convene a state advisory board and public conference on the issue.
"This partnership between the Bioethics Institute and the Maryland Attorney General's office will provide leadership in exploring creative ways to ensure that terminally ill patients receive compassionate care," said Ruth Gaare, associate director of the Bioethics Institute. "With the physician-assisted suicide issue before the U.S. Supreme Court, it is critical that health care professionals and state legislative and policy-making bodies seek a greater understanding of the issues involved in providing effective pain relief and compassionate care for dying patients. We need more information about impediments to good care, and we need to bring together health care professionals, key professional groups, patients and their families to learn why patients do not seem to be getting the care they need at the end of life. This grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation will enable us to do this."
Maryland Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr. praised the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation for its "leadership in supporting innovative approaches to improved care at the end of life. We are gratified that our initiative has gained this national recognition."
Curran also commended the Hopkins Bioethics Institute for its decision to support the Attorney General's effort. "Aided by the scholarship, clear thinking and commitment to the public interest that characterizes the work of the Institute, we look forward to establishing a model for assessing the impact of the law on this crucial area of health care and devising reforms that will bring real benefits to patients and their loved ones," Curran said.
The Bioethics Institute of Johns Hopkins University was established in 1995 as a University-wide endeavor to bring the moral dimensions of medical care, health policy, and the biological, behavioral and social sciences to the forefront of scholarship and practice. The Institute is designed to provide educational opportunities for students throughout the University and to provide an intellectual home for Johns Hopkins University faculty whose research advances and engages questions of bioethics.
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