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ABC of palliative care
  1. GILLIAN RATHBONE, Consultant Physician
  1. The Leicestershire Hospice, Leicestershire, UK

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    ABC of palliative care, Marie Fallon, Bill O'Neill, eds, pp 80. BMJ Books, 1998. £14.95 (£13.95 to BMA members), paperback. ISBN: 0 7279 0793 X.

    This book provides a useful and accessible guide to the basic principles of palliative care. The chapters on nausea, vomiting and intestinal obstruction, and on constipation and diarrhoea are particularly valuable, providing a logical approach to management clearly and concisely. The chapter on HIV and AIDS is also excellent, giving a remarkably comprehensive review of this highly complex area of care. The chapter on non-malignant conditions is very welcome and could usefully be expanded to include other terminal conditions.

    I was a little disappointed by the chapters on pain management. There is little practical guidance on which analgesic to choose and how to convert from one analgesic to another or from one route to another. In addition, I think many practitioners would appreciate an explanation of the practical aspects of setting up a syringe driver and details of which drugs are compatible. In my opinion, there is also insufficient emphasis on the need for prophylactic aperients when prescribing opioids, a common omission which causes undue distress.

    Palliative care is a uniquely wide ranging subject and theABC of palliative care attempts to cover this in a mere 65 text pages. While each chapter on its own contains clearly presented and relevant information, I feel that its brevity has left this book disjointed, without a coherent message as to what palliative care is really about. In spite of this reservation, I am sure many doctors will find it a useful aid to management when caring for the terminally ill.