Addressing pain, other symptoms of terminal illness

Dr. Jeffrey Rubins

“Unfortunately, many people expect pain at the end of life,” explains Dr. Jeffrey Rubins, Medical Director of Palliative Care at Hennepin County Medical Center,  in a recent Healthy Matters podcast.  “And one of the things that palliative care really does well is  aggressively take care of pain.”

The goal of HCMC’s Palliative Medicine Service is to relieve suffering and improve quality of life for patients with serious, progressive or terminal illness. Under the leadership of Dr. Rubins, the service provides inpatient consultation, patient care, and educational services to both the patient and the patient’s family or caregivers.

“Eventually we all end up at a point where medicine isn’t doing for us what we want it to do,” says Dr. Rubins. “That’s when palliative care complements the other care doctors are providing.  So when people say that they want to be comfortable, they are comfortable.”

In addition to addressing pain concerns, there are other ways palliative care can  help people cope with their disease. “For example, if someone has COPD and is experiencing shortness of breath, we can address ways they can conserve energy to decrease the discomfort,” says Dr. Rubins.

“In many ways, we’re intensifying care. Intensive care is what’s needed at the end of life,” he says.

To hear the entire podcast from December 4, 2011, go to and take the Healthy Matters link. Healthy Matters with host Dr. David Hilden is heard every Sunday morning at 7:30 a.m. on WCCO Radio 830 AM and WLTE 102.9 FM.