Fighting Dying Patients' Pain
National Campaign Will Strengthen Pain Control Standards
PRINCETON, N.J., August 8, 1997 The University of
Medical School will conduct a comprehensive nationwide effort to
pain control for the dying in hospitals, The Robert Wood Johnson
Foundation announced today. The three-year, $1.6 million project is a
cooperative effort with the Joint Commission on Accreditation of
Healthcare Organization and state cancer pain initiatives.
"Over the years many studies have shown that people are more
the process of dying than of death itself," commented Foundation Senior
Program Officer Rosemary Gibson. "And fear of unrelieved pain is one of
the greatest worries that people have when they face death.
Unfortunately, studies also have shown that, in many cases, people
suffer needlessly, when modern pain control methods could alleviate
their agony. This project will try to help health care providers assess
and treat pain in dying patients more effectively."
project, the Wisconsin Cancer Pain Initiative--a national leader in
encouraging better methods of pain control and in teaching health care
professional show to use them--will work with the Joint Commission to
develop new pain control standards. These standards will cover pain for
terminally ill people with cancer and with other conditions.
Ultimately, hospitals will have to meet these new standards in order to
"We think the involvement of the Joint
Commission in this project shows great foresight on the grantee's
part," Gibson said. "It provides the motivation for health care
institutions to take a serious look at pain control and implement more
effective practices." The Joint Commission evaluates and accredits more
than 18,000 health care organizations and programs in the United
States. It is the nation's preeminent standards-setting and
accrediting body in health care. To earn--and keep--accreditation, an
organization must undergo an on-site inspection at least every three
As the approximately two-year standards development
process begins, the project personnel will coordinate a national
improvement effort to help hospitals implement better procedures to
assess and manage pain. Other organizations, such as State Peer Review
Organizations, already have indicated their desire to assist in this
quality improvement activity.
Many hospitals likewise are eager to improve the way pain is managed
within their walls.
science of pain control continues to improve," said project director
June L. Dahl, PhD,"but outmoded clinical practices, misconceptions
about addiction, and our culture's mistaken assumption that dying is
always painful--these things conspire to prevent the application of the
best that science, when linked with compassion, can offer."
of the motivation for this project came from the SUPPORTstudy, which
the Foundation funded a few years ago," Gibson said. "It found that
half of seriously ill patients, who were able to communicate in their
last days, were in severe pain. This disturbing finding--and others
SUPPORT--have galvanized many health care leaders to try to change the
way we care for the dying. Many of these leaders have joined us in a
campaign called Last Acts: Care and Caring at the End of Life,
chaired by former first lady Rosalynn Carter. The new University of
Wisconsin project will fill an important niche in this effort and an
opportunity for positive action."
The Robert Wood Johnson
Foundation, based in Princeton, N.J., is the nation's largest
philanthropy devoted exclusively to health and health care. It became a
national institution in 1972 with receipt of a bequest from the
industrialist whose name it bears, and has since made more than $2
billion in grants. The Foundation concentrates its grantmaking in three
goal areas: to assure that all Americans have access to basic health
care at reasonable cost; to improve the way services are organized and
provided to people with chronic health conditions; and to reduce the
personal, social and economic harm caused by substance abuse--tobacco,
alcohol, and illicit drugs.