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Keywords:

  • health policy;
  • serious and complex illness;
  • communication;
  • feedback;
  • language;
  • socialization;
  • social sciences

Americans are living longer — a mark of success in public health and medical care — but more will live the last few years with progressive illness and disability. The dominant conception of care delivery separates “aggressive” or life-extending care from “palliative” or death-accepting care, with an assumed “transition” between them. The physiology and the experience of this population are mismatched in this model. Here, we propose a more useful category for public policy and clinical quality improvement: persons who will die as a result of “serious and complex illness.” Delivery system changes could ensure reliable, continuous, and competent care to this population.