CHEYENNE — A bill before the Wyoming Legislature aims to improve the quality of palliative care across the state.
Palliative care is an approach to medicine that focuses on the symptoms of patients with serious illnesses through a team that often includes pain management specialists, counselors and spiritual advisers.
Palliative care is often administered when someone is dying. But sometimes it can be used in non-life-threatening conditions in coordination with a physician who is treating the underlying disease, said Jason Mincer of the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network, which supports Senate File 88.
“Most people do not know what palliative care is,” Mincer said. “And once they find out, they want it.”
Palliative care varies across Wyoming.
SF88 creates a group that would be called the Wyoming Palliative Care Advisory Council to look at palliative care deficiencies in Wyoming, said Sen. Charlie Scott, the bill’s sponsor.
The bill would require the council to educate the public, doctors and other medical providers about the care. They would also help the Wyoming Department of Health in evaluating the quality of palliative care and advise the Legislature when laws need to be changed to help patients.
Because pain management often involves highly addictive medicine, the council would have to talk with police about how to ensure the medicines are being used for legitimate purposes.
Scott, a Republican from Casper, relayed the story of his wife’s death five years ago.
After a prolonged illness, Scott’s wife realized aggressive medical treatment was not working. She decided to end medical treatment and she just wanted to be comfortable, Scott said.
She began receiving services from Central Wyoming Hospice. The hospice organization, her physicians and her priest worked together to treat pain and council her as she accepted death.
“That’s probably the toughest decision any of us is going to have to make,” Scott said. “Sometimes it’s a blunt recognition that medical science has to offer everything that medical science has to offer. And it happens to all of us.”
In addition to Scott, SF88 is sponsored by Sen. Fred Baldwin, R-Kemmerer, and Reps. Bill Henderson, R-Cheyenne, Mark Kinner, R-Sheridan, Dan Kirkbride, R-Chugwater, Charles Pelkey, D-Laramie, Andy Schwartz, D-Jackson.
On Wednesday morning, SF88 passed the Senate Labor, Health and Social Services Committee. It now proceeds to the Senate floor, where it will need to pass three votes, before heading to the House.