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South Carolina Governor Signs Bill To Explore Palliative Care


South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster signed into law this month a bill to evaluate the state’s health care resources for seriously and terminally ill patients.

The new law establishes the state’s first Palliative Care and Quality of Life Study Committee, which is designed to offer insight about such care and provide vital information to the lieutenant governor’s Office on Aging, The Post and Courier reports.

Palliative medicine is provided to the terminally and seriously ill to help treat symptoms and side-effects of disease and aggressive treatments. The goal of palliative care is not cure, but symptom management.

The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network praised the state Legislature for creating the new committee, partly because some dying cancer patients opt for such care.

“On behalf of the more than 30,450 estimated South Carolinians who will hear the words ‘you have cancer’ this year, I applaud our state legislators for supporting this crucial palliative care bill,” Beth Johnson, South Carolina government relations director for the network, said in a press release.

By Dec. 31, 2019, the new committee must submit to the governor and General Assembly a report on the state of palliative care in South Carolina with findings and recommendations.

According to a recent study led by King’s College London researcher Dr. Simon Noah Etkind and published in the BMC Medicine journal, 75 percent of people nearing death would benefit from palliative care. By 2040, demand is expected to increase by 25 percent.

“More palliative care support is likely to be required for some illnesses and clinical syndromes, such as multimorbidity, chronic progressive illnesses with long disease courses, and diseases with complex symptoms,” researchers write. “This is important because, alongside demographic changes the incidence, prevalence and mortality of chronic illness is rising worldwide, with an increase in long-term conditions and multimorbidity.”

Unfortunately, access to palliative care remains inconsistent, even in high-income countries. Overall, only a minority who need palliative care receive it.

To improve access, governments must better understand the level of need in their populations.

“(In) light of the major demographic and disease changes occurring and expected to occur globally, we need to know more than the current level of palliative care need – we need to know how the health care needs of people at the end of life will change over time in order to plan healthcare services,” researchers write.