Our glossary explains some of the medical and legal terms used in palliative care. Glossary words are underlined in the Topics and Asked and Answered sections, with definitions appearing when you hover on a word.


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An unpleasant physical and emotional sensation caused when nerves send a message to the brain that there is damage to the body. Pain is experienced differently by different people and can be influenced by many factors, including fatigue, worry, anxiety, depression or sadness.

Pain receptors

Special nerve endings that send a message to the brain that there is damage to the body.

Palliative care

An approach to care that focuses on comfort and quality of life for those affected by progressive, life threatening illness. The goal of palliative care is to control pain and other symptoms, support emotional, spiritual and cultural needs and maximize functioning.


The removal of fluid from the abdominal cavity. The skin is numbed using a local anesthetic, and a needle or catheter is inserted into the abdomen to drain the fluid.


A forecast or estimate of what will probably happen in the course of a disease, including its likely outcome.


A person chosen to speak and act for the patient about health care decisions if the patient is unable to do so. See Substitute decision maker.


A type of medication that acts on the brain to improve energy, mood and alertness. Requires a prescription.