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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To administer a medication to reduce a person’s level of awareness or responsiveness, or to calm emotions.


A treatment that uses a medication to reduce a person’s level of awareness or responsiveness, or to calm emotions. This effect can also be a side effect of other treatments.


A type of medication used to relieve mental or physical suffering. The medication calms emotions or reduces a person’s level of awareness or responsiveness.

Side effect

Unintentional symptom that occurs as a result of a treatment or medication.

Spiritual care

Care that is designed to offer a person an opportunity to explore values, ideals, meaning and purpose.

Spiritual care provider

A professional trained to provide spiritual companionship, who enters into the lives of the suffering and the dying. Often referred to as a chaplain in health care settings.

Spiritual distress

Suffering related to a sense of disconnectedness and alienation from one’s deeper self. A loss of meaning and value.

Spiritual leader

A religious leader of a faith or cultural community, such as an elder, priest, pastor, rabbi, imam, pandit, sensei, or master.


The core essence of self, reflected in the values and ideals that a person holds most closely. It addresses common human questions such as these:

  • Who am I?
  • Where do I come from?
  • Why am I here?
  • Where is the meaning and purpose in my life?
  • How am I connected to others and to the world around me?
Steroid / Corticosteroid

A type of medication used to shrink swelling and relieve inflammation that can cause pain. Steroids are useful in many pain situations, have anti-nausea properties, may improve appetite and can be used in low doses to alleviate fatigue. They can have side effects that need to be monitored by health care professionals. Requires a prescription. Not to be confused with steroids used to build muscle.

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