Nelson Mandela's Illness Puts Spotlight on Palliative Care

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"Palliative care is a clinical model that is also appropriate for other stages of disease because it is so focused on quality of life and can be used with curative treatment," he said.

People with cancer, dementia, and heart or lung disease are good candidates for palliative care, Woodruff said, especially older patients who are chronically ill but nowhere near death. It can ease the pain and suffering that aggressive treatments often trigger so patients cope better.

Dr. Cory Ingram, assistant professor of palliative medicine at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine, pointed out that the World Health Organization views palliative care as a basic human right. He said it is especially poignant that someone like Mandela, who has spent his entire life showing others how to overcome adversity, is now the one receiving help to overcome the adversities common at this stage of his life.

"As human beings, we owe it to one another to provide the best care for each other we can, especially while dealing with a serious illness," Ingram said.

Palliative Care Tweet Chat Today at 1 p.m., ET.

Would you like to learn more about palliative care for yourself or a loved one? Please join Dr. Richard Besser, chief health and medical correspondent for ABC News, for a tweet chat today at 1 p.m., ET on this important topic. The chat is cosponsored by the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network.

To learn how you can participate or simply listen in on the chat, click here. Anyone can join. You don't have to be a Twitter expert!

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