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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A medication or substance that speeds up the body’s normal functioning.

Stool softener

A type of medication that softens stool in the intestine, making it easier to pass. Available without a prescription.


Under the skin. A method of administering medications and fluids into the fatty layer under the skin called the subcutaneous tissue.


Under the tongue. A method of administering a medication by placing it under the tongue, to be absorbed through the membranes into the bloodstream.

Substitute decision maker

A person chosen to speak and act for the patient about health care decisions if the patient is unable to do so. The person may be chosen by the patient and named in an advance care plan. If the patient has not named a person and cannot do so, the health care team may ask family members or close friends to be substitute decision makers, or a legal body may make the care decisions. The substitute decision maker has different names in different parts of Canada. For a full list, see the article Advance Care Planning Across Canada.