This is Part 2 of a multi-part series.
Approximately 1 week into her ICU stay, when my mom wasn’t making any progress on ventilator weaning, I was called by the palliative care team asking if they should “formally” consult. They had been visiting daily but not officially consulting – introducing themselves as “Jean’s friends” – who happened to be from palliative care. The ICU attending had tacitly agreed to the consult, telling the palliative care team, “whatever Jean wants”. My initial reaction was no, we didn’t need that, we knew that she potentially could have a poor outcome and were talking openly about it. If anything, I told the palliative care team, my dad needed a ray of hope, not a discussion about the “what if’s”. It was an eye-opening moment for me – to consider the “meaning” of requesting an official palliative care consult and to confront my own perceptions and biases, despite intellectually knowing better. Was I falling into the same “it’s not time yet” mindset that frustrates us so frequently as palliative care professionals? Why would making it “official” be any different from the daily visits that the team was already doing? How would my dad and my siblings perceive my request for an “official” palliative care consult? Would they think that I had “given up” by recommending a palliative care consult? Why didn’t I trust what we do so well in palliative care – starting with assessing the patient (if able) and family understanding of the current situation and addressing identified needs? Why couldn’t palliative care be as much about “hoping for the best” as it is about “planning for the worst”? I told the palliative care team that they needed to “hit me over the head” if I was in denial or not thinking rationally about this clearly reasonable request.