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This article has been peer-reviewed. It was published in The Internet Journal of Family Practice, volume 1 number 2, 2001. The published version is available at Copyright is retained by Internet Scientific Publications.


Providing excellent care for a dying patient is something all patients deserve. Hospices and palliative care centers exist in many areas to aid primary care physicians and patients through this difficult time. It is important to remember that most patients want to prepare for death, if at all possible. Everyone does this in his or her own way, but oftentimes concern about pain and symptom management interfere with this very involved and valuable process. Being prepared to treat these symptoms as well as addressing your patient's emotional needs is imperative. Referral to a hospice, if possible, will only strengthen the support available to the patient, the family, and you, the primary care physician. In the end, there is much that we have to offer a dying patient. Efforts should not stop because the illness cannot be cured. So much can happen to someone in the window of time between terminal diagnosis and death. Making this period one in which a person is as mentally clear, physically comfortable, and symptom free for as long as possible is a goal that is worthy of our efforts.