International Association for Hospice & Palliative Care

International Association for Hospice & Palliative Care

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Promoting Hospice & Palliative Care Worldwide


2008; Volume 9, No 1, January

Roger Woodruff, MD


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Hospice Palliative Care Book Reviews &
The Palliative Care Book of the Month

Roger Woodruff, MD

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Book of the Month

Making Life Possible

Peter Beresford, Lesley Adshead and Suzy Croft
Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2007
268 pp
ISBN 978 1 84310 465 0
RRP  £22.99  $US 45.00

What is Social Work?  What do Social Workers do?  What is the role of Social Work in palliative care?  I have always regarded the Social Worker as a central and integral member of the treatment team in oncology and palliative care, and I have been fortunate in working with some very capable people.  I suppose I have taken them for granted and not thought through some of the important questions addressed in this book.

With the emphasis on quality in health care policy and the move to increasing user involvement, the authors set about to find out what users thought of the Social Workers they had contact with in palliative care.  It is this approach that makes this book particularly interesting.

The book is divided into three parts.  The first provides general background information on social work and on palliative care.  The second is an analysis of what the service users had to say, the good and the bad.  The third is a discussion which covers all aspects of the role of the Social Worker in palliative care.  Should the Social Worker have contact with the patients before the terminal phase of the illness?  Should the Social Worker touch base with all patients on a service, rather than only those formally referred?  Surely the answer is ‘yes’ to both.

In a wonderful Foreword, Dorothy Rowe confides, ‘what I fear is those people… who believe they know what is best for other people.’  Unfortunately, Social Workers have been characterised in this manner on television and in the media; happily, the service users studied in this book thought almost the opposite of their Social Workers.  But she saves her poison dart for health-care managers: ‘Managers like strict, exclusive categories and timesheets.  They don’t like people, because people ruin theories and systems by not behaving in the way the managers think they should behave.’

This is a very good review of the role of the Social Worker in palliative care. I thought that being based on a study of service users brought some freshness and honesty.

Roger Woodruff, MD
Director of Palliative Care, Austin Health, Melbourne, Australia
(December 2007)

Book Reviews

Achievement in Adversity

Barbara Monroe and David Oliviere (eds.)
Oxford University Press, 2007
ISBN 978-0-19-920641-4
RRP £29.95 $US 57.50

Resilience is defined as a ‘universal capacity which allows a person, group or community to prevent, minimise or overcome damaging effects of adversity.’ In the introduction, the editors state that the concept of resilience is important to the future delivery of end of life care, as it provides a unifying concept that will allow us ‘to retain and sustain some of the most significant understandings of the last four decades of palliative care and to incorporate more effective investment in a community approach and a public health focus.’ I think their thesis is that if we knew more about what makes individuals resilient or vulnerable then, applied community-wide, there might be fewer problems associated with end of life care in the future.

The contributions cover resilience in families, carers, multiprofessional teams and organizations as well as the relationship between resilience and spirituality, rehabilitation and bereavement. The contributors include sociologists, psychologists, psychiatrists and clinicians. The volume contains some interesting and thought-provoking material regarding the involvement of resilience theory in palliative care, which is described as a ‘work in progress’ by the editors.

Guidelines for Multidisciplinary Program Development

Michael Schatman and Alexandra Campbell (eds)
Informa Healthcare, 2007 (distributed in Australia by Palgrave Macmillan)
ISBN 978-142004512-3
RRP $US 149.95 £85

I was surprised to read that the number of Multidisciplinary Pain Clinics (MPCs) in the USA has decreased steeply in the last ten years. This book is a well-referenced, evidence-based, outcome-focused review of MPCs that leaves you feeling there should be more of them. It will be a useful resource for anyone working in such clinics and provides the rationale and ‘how to’ for anybody setting out to create such a clinic. Excellent book, but too expensive.

A Legal Peaceful Choice at the End of Life

Stanley A. Terman
Life Transitions Publications, 2007
RRP $US 30

When can a Living Will be ignored? This book sets out to cover the emotional, practical, clinical, legal, moral, ethical, spiritual, religious, and political aspects of advance care planning. It documents all the political and legal pitfalls that seem to be multiplying in the United States. Some of the stories of people who suffered unnecessarily after their documented wishes were ignored or overturned are sad.

Dr. Terman is a psychiatrist and medical director of Caring Advocates, an organization whose motto is ‘To plan and honor end-of-life decisions’. The method referred to in the title is, when the time is right, voluntary refusal of food and fluid. This book would be a useful resource for hospice organizations and for anyone contemplating advance care planning in the United States.

A Hospice Volunteer in Urban Nursing Homes

Frances Shani Parker
Loving Healing Press, 2007
ISBN 978-1-932690-35-4
RRP $US19.95, £9.95

A school principal turned hospice volunteer, Frances Parker relates her experiences with dying people in nursing homes. The second part of the book is about what we as individuals and as a society must do to improve things for those who are dying. I particularly enjoyed the guided tour, conducted from a wheelchair, of Baby Boomer Haven.

Roger Woodruff
Director of Palliative Care, Austin Health, Melbourne, Australia
(December 2007)

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