Sitting with Suffering: A paradigm shift
With Dr. Joan Berzoff
Recorded June 2018
The prevention and relief of suffering is the primary aim of palliative care, described as an “obligation” (Cassell, 1982; Sacks & Nelson, 2007) and “duty” (WHO, 2014) for clinicians. This webinar will introduce the literature on suffering and a counter argument that suggests that there is intrinsic psychosocial suffering at end of life –- loss, feeling burdensome, loneliness, death anxiety and worry for family which may not be relieved despite clinicians’ best efforts. This shift from seeing suffering as transformational or meaningful, toward seeing suffering as intrinsic highlights a profound ethical and clinical tension in palliative care: the paradox of the expectation that we can relieve suffering, and our inability to necessarily do so. It also runs counter to the common adage that palliative care providers can and must “replace suffering with joy” or meaning for dying patients (Witt Sherman, 2015. p. 477). While there may indeed be meaning and joy at end of life, it is possible that there may be no meaning to be found, and the pressure to make meaning may work to increase suffering for patients, families and clinicians. That some suffering endures indicates neither poor quality of care, nor of clinician inadequacy, but rather that dying is intrinsically hard. Currently, little clinical guidance exists on how clinicians can work with psychosocial suffering that persists at end of life, and this workshop will help to fill this gap. This webinar will discuss what it means to sit with suffering, as clinicians, in order to help clients to do the same.