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Palliative and End of Life Care
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Palliative and End of Life Care


According to the World Health Organization, Palliative Care is an approach “that improves the quality of life of patients and their families facing life-threatening illness, through the prevention and relief of suffering by means of early identification, impeccable assessment and treatment of pain and other physical, psychosocial and spiritual aspects of care.” (http://www.who.int/cancer/palliative/definition/en/)

The mission of the EOL SIG is to explore, enhance, and promote the contributions that mental health professionals can make to end-of-life care, research, and social policies.  We also aim to encourage, support, and educate psychologists, psychologists in training, and other mental health professionals who work or are interested in this challenging and fulfilling field.

EOL SIG’s genesis was the WSPA’s now-dissolved End of Life (EOL) Committee. Initially started as a task force, the EOL Committee played a very active role in the WSPA as well as for psychologists, other mental health professionals, and the community.  Their focus was to address issues concerning physician-aid-in-dying (PAD), both nationally and in the State of Washington, and to provide education on the psychological aspects of end-of-life care (e.g. dying, death, grief). 

The EOL Task Force and Committee made many important contributions, including:

  • Assisting the WSPA in its decision to sign an amicus brief that was submitted by a coalition of mental health professionals to the U.S. Supreme Court for its hearings on whether PAD is a constitutionally protected right for mentally competent, terminally ill patients (the WSPA also signed subsequent briefs on the same issue and remains the only state organization to do so);
  • Developing guidelines for psychological evaluations used to determine the mental competency of terminally ill patients who are candidates for PAD (see Washington State Psychological Association Death with Dignity Guidelines for Mental Health Professionals);

The WSPA dissolved the EOL Committee in 2010, after its specific tasks and goals were achieved.  But for many EOL Committee members, the commitment to this important clinical matter remained.  Our Committee activities had been personally and professionally rewarding and provided an opportunity to actively engage with the WSPA.  We also believed that maintaining a group whose clinical and research interests focused on end-of-life care and concerns would be valuable.  That is why we created the EOL SIG. 

The EOL SIG is committed to providing its members and others with the resources and support needed to deliver the best possible care during this unique stage of life.  As a group, we have targeted the following activities for development:

  • Consultation group;
  • Reading group (e.g., journal articles, books);
  • Presentations by EOL SIG members on their own research or writings;
  • Consultation to other health care providers working in end-of-life care and research;
  • Educational opportunities for other health care providers working in end-of-life care and research; and
  • Coordinating with community organizations to provide educational opportunities for the general public about end-of-life care and concerns.

Our next project is to prepare an end-of-life guide identifying resources (e.g., forms, literature, organizations) that we can have easily available to us in order to better serve our clients.

To encourage group interaction, the EOL SIG meets on a quarterly basis (on the fourth Friday of January, April, July, and November from 12:00 PM to 1:30 PM in Seattle).  We also have a listserv where we share information about end-of-life care and concerns and where there are opportunities to network, refer, and consult with fellow colleagues (This listserv is only available to members of the EOL SIG). 

Finally, we know that in our professional career we are more likely than not to work with clients who are facing end-of-life issues— be it their own or a loved one’s.  The EOL SIG is available to other WSPA members who would like to consult with us regarding end-of-life care and concerns (see contact information below).

Supporting clients who are coping with end-of-life is a challenging yet rewarding service.  Whether end-of-life care and concerns are a small or large part of your clinical practice, I encourage you to take advantage of the resources and expertise available through the EOL SIG.


Washington State Psychological Association Death with Dignity Guidelines for Mental Health Professionals

these guidelines are under revision and expected to be completed in October 2017. If there are any questions, contact Judith Gordon, Ph.D. jgordon@uw.edu or Alison Ward, Ph.D. wardalison@live.com.
 

Washington Death With Dignity Initiative, A report with summary and recommendations by the Washington State
Psychological Association End-of-Life Committee, June 2008.

 

Washington State Psychological Association Policy on Value-Neutral Language Regarding End-Of-Life Choices  

 

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